We recently had a conversation with Rolf Brenner, CEO of the U.S. division of German solar module manufacturer AXITEC. The company has had a U.S. presence since 2013 and just recently got involved with energy storage. AXITEC will be exhibiting at Intersolar North America and many other shows this year, but here’s a preview of what the module manufacturer plans for 2017.
What is AXITEC’s module manufacturing history?
This year we will exceed 1 GW of installed modules in the field. AXITEC started its journey in the solar module business back in 2001 in Germany. Thanks to years of close partnerships with several manufacturers of wafers and cells, AXITEC is in the prime position to always use the latest technology in the production of solar modules.
What is your relationship with the U.S. market?
We always believed in the United States as one of the major solar markets. The United States offers plenty of sunshine, and demand for electricity is relatively high. Furthermore, the American power plant infrastructure is in need of investments and regeneration. Are we investing in old and expensive technologies or are we going to invest in the future? I think recent figures of installed capacity in the United States are giving the right answer.
The first installation of AXITEC modules in the United States was commissioned in 2012 in New Jersey. The U.S. office opened in New Jersey in 2013. We service customers all over the country, as well as in the Caribbean, Canada and Mexico from our headquarters on the East coast.
What types of panels does AXITEC have available to the U.S. market today?
We offer a wide range of modules. The 60-cell poly black-frame module is the all-purpose module being used on residential as well as commercial rooftops. Our main seller in the commercial market–rooftop and ground-mount–is a 72-cell module that we offer with poly or mono cells. The all-black 60-cell mono modules are perfectly suited for installations where the black exterior design must match performance. Customers can also benefit by using a smart module–the AXIplus series offers an embedded SolarEdge power optimizer. The embedded solution helps cut cost on labor and material, as well as offers all the well-known SolarEdge features.
Who’s typically buying your solar panels in the United States?
We are focusing on the residential and commercial market in the United States–anything between 5 kW and 5 MW. This is our core customer base which we serve through large distribution companies as well as with our loyal contractors and EPC partners throughout the whole country. With warehouses on both coasts, we can service any customer in a timely manner.
What does AXITEC’s German background provide that some of the Chinese brands don’t have?
It is a must in the industry, and especially as a German brand, to offer a high-quality and top-tier product. It is our aspiration that the modules meet and exceed the performance expectations of our customers. My team in the United States has experienced the difference of dealing with a German boss quite well. We tend to have a more conservative approach. Long-term relationships with customers are more important than a quick success on a deal. This means we cannot always provide every single requirement out there, but it is necessary to be honest and up-front with our customers in order to build long-term relationships.
We experience a loyal customer base which appreciates the long-term approach. We are working on building a healthy and stable business for us and our customers. It is our goal to find solutions together.
What are you always working on in R&D?
Increasing wattages is always a focus. We need to be up-to-date and want to offer state-of-the-art solar modules. Customers in the United States always demand the highest efficiencies. We are working on providing the best price-performance ratio for any kind of installation while also providing some stability to our customers. Customers also need availability and predictability with products. We are constantly in contact with our customers to find the right balance and solutions.
What other products does AXITEC have?
Energy storage is gaining interest and becoming more important. AXITEC has promoted the development of a battery storage system as an ideal supplement to our solar modules. The flexibly expandable high-performance Li-ion storage is ideally suitable for all photovoltaic systems–from home to industry. The AXITEC storage system AXIstorage is manufactured in Germany and perfectly combines performance, safety and longevity.