Shell yesterday opened a solar cell production plant in Germany that will add 20% to current European photovoltaic production capacity. Initial production of 10 megawatts capacity per year will produce enough cells to power about 3000 houses. About half the production is destined for use in Germany; other planned markets include Italy, Spain and Switzerland, Shell Solar chief executive Willem-Jan van Wijk told ENDS Daily. Based in Gelsenkirchen in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the plant's capacity will be extended to 25 megawatts at the end of 2001 if market and technical developments justify it, Shell says. The company has invested euros 25.6m (DM50m) in the plant, which has also been supported by the North Rhine-Westphalia government. Greenpeace Germany has welcomed the new plant, but claims that Shell could have done far more to achieve a real market breakthrough for solar power in Europe if it had invested more money. Mr van Wijk acknowledged that larger scale production would have meant lower prices, but denied that his company could achieve a breakthrough on its own. "You can't just point at the solar industry," he said. "The whole chain.... technological breakthrough by the solar industry, the building industry, government regulation and funding, financial investment and assurance of demand has to move together to a higher level. Then the price could reduce by 50% or more within five years".
Shell International, tel: +44 171 934 1234; Shell Solar, tel: +31 20 630 9111; Greenpeace Germany, tel: +49 306 180.
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