26 May 2014


"After the roller coaster years, increasing steadyness of the global industry might be the biggest surprise"





Walter Nehls is the CEO of Komax Solar. He joined the Komax Group in 2008 where he established the business unit Komax Solar. Walter Nehls holds a bachelor degree from the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland and an MBA from Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts. Before joining Komax, he held executive positions in various industries in the field of high-tech equipment, semiconductors, printed circuit boards, plastics and electronics.
Komax Solar is a leading supplier of equipment for the production of PV modules, focused on providing leading edge technology for the production processes of their customers. The main products of Komax Solar are stringers, lay-up systems and electroluminescence testers. Komax Solar has a strong emphasis on innovation and technology, making its equipment leading in the industry.

Komax Solar has a tradition to be a pioneer and leader in the field of stringer equipment. In the past, Komax has for multiple times set the standard in stringing, the last time in 2009 with the introduction of the first dual track high speed stringer. Now, in 2014, Komax Solar is again setting a new standard with the stringer XCell X3. It is the first stringer that combines highest productivity with the possibility to process cells with 2, 3, 4 or 5 busbars as well as full or half cells. And all this at the record setting speed of 1800 cells per hour. The X3 furthermore allows the customers to save money on power consumption, floor space and maintenance costs. And most important, because of all these advantages, the X3 offers an outstanding price performance ratio.




1. What has been the single biggest key to the success for your company?
There have been many important milestones on the way to the top for Komax Solar. An example was the introduction of the induction heating process for the soldering on the stringer. Komax Solar had built and tested other heating processes before, such as infrared or laser, but finally decided for induction because of its superior process capabilities for the critical soldering process.
Maybe the most important single milestone was the fast move to Asia at the end of 2009 combined with the market launch of the stringer XCell X2. After the collapse of the PV market in Spain in 2009, followed by the strong shift of the PV industry to China, Komax Solar was the first Western stringer supplier that was setting up its own sales and service organization in Asia, especially in China. When entering this market, Komax Solar did so with the stringer X2, which was the perfect product for the market and was setting the standard in the industry for the years to come.
It is fair to expect, that with the introduction of the X3, Komax Solar will set another successful milestone.

2. Where will your organization be in 5 years from now? What do you want to achieve?
Komax Solar is committed to lead through innovation and outstanding price performance ratios of its products. Even through the industry crisis in the past three years, Komax Solar continued investing in R&D and managed to develop the new X3. And we expect the company doing the same in 5 years. 
Currently, Komax Solar is in the process of deciding on a new ownership. Such new ownership may possibly offer additional opportunities for the future of Komax Solar. The goal for the next 5 years is to remain thé stringer supplier for the PV industry, serving its global customers with leading edge equipment.

3. Who do you see as your solar hero and inspired you in solar? Why?
I do not see anyone specifically as solar hero. There were uncounted pioneers, scientists, enthusiasts and many unknown people, which contributed to the breath-taking development of this industry.

4. What is the best advice you would give new solar entrepreneurs?
Not really an advice and probably quite obvious:

  1. First, make a very careful selection of the section of the value chain, in which to enter. The various parts of the supply chain show completely different economic, financial or technical challenges and opportunities.
  2. Second, be prepared for cyclicality of the industry; take a look at the semiconductor industry to learn from it.
  3. Third, be assured that the long-term drivers of this industry will remain growing.

5. What do you see as the major trends in the PV industry right now?
In module production: There is a trend to use cells with 4 or five bus bars, and also to use half cells instead of full cells. Furthermore there are significant efforts of many players to move to back contact cells.

6. What is the biggest challenge you feel your organization and the market faces? And the biggest opportunity?
The PV industry has still not completed its consolidation process yet. For an equipment supplier, the biggest challenge is the difficult cash situation of the majority of the module producers. A big opportunity for this industry is the trend, to become geographically more balanced.

7. What developments in PV will definitely surprise us in the next 5 years?
I do not expect surprises. There will be further shifts between regions, there will be more technology advancements, but there will be no major surprises. This industry has probably already reached a size, where so-called breakthrough innovations need to bring a truly big improvement in order to be economically feasible. This makes it rather likely that the industry will develop evolutionary rather than revolutionary in the coming years.
Knowing the recent history of PV, which has been a roller coaster ride indeed, such increasing steadyness in the development of the industry might finally be the biggest surprise for many.



Learn more about Komax Solar and the new X3 stringer at Komax Solar's booth at the InterSolar from 4 to 6 June in Hall A3, at Booth 354.



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