5 October 2006


Interview with director of Santon

What are the main products of Santon in the field of PV and what are the growth expectations for your company in this field?
Santon supplies DC switches to switch off the DC current received from solar panels. The range of Santon consists of 16A, 25A, 40A, 63A, 100A, 200A, 250A, 350A, 600A, 800A and 1000A switches for 600 and for 1000 volts. Santon can supply these switches with additional electric and/or electronic devices.
We have seen that the requested specifications for the switches change over time. Over the last twelve months we have seen that the requested voltages have increased from around 600 volts last year, to mostly around 1000 volts this year. Currents have also gone up; we now see that a current of 500 amps is not uncommon anymore.



What and where are your most important customers and markets?
The PV business is a relatively young business that is still changing rapidly. Our main customers are PV system suppliers, OEMs and wholesalers. Our main markets are the countries in Europe, with Germany still being the most important. The USA is, of course, also important. To be honest we see initiatives all over the world.



What are your personal expectations for the German market in 2006 and 2007? Do you expect a downward trend in system sales (megawatts) compared to 2004 and 2005?
The solar business is still fully dependant on subsidies although some people in the business seem to forget this. The subsidy regulations in Germany are based on a decreasing feed-in tariff in due course. This means that if the prices of the PV systems stay as they are, the downward trend will continue. I already hear customers talk about a 10% to 40% decrease in turnover compared to last year. Of course the prices of the PV systems in Germany are dependent on world demand. As long as elsewhere in the world an investor can get a higher profit with his PV system and the number of PV modules supplied to the market does not increase significantly, the downward trend in Germany will continue. Unfortunately for Germany, there will be various interesting feed-in tariff regulations elsewhere in the world in the near future.



What do you consider to be the most important new PV markets and market segments for the near future? Will the development of solar farms become more dominant when compared to private (roof) applications?
For the near future, what I see is that solar farms are becoming more and more dominant. The continuation of this dominance is of course dependant on a lot of factors. In Spain, in particular, you see a lot of large solar farms. However, I also see a reversal. Small systems are being put on roofs (again); currently, in particular, on new built houses.
Whether solar farms or private applications will win is at the moment heavily dependant on local subsidy regulations.



What in your opinion are the most important topics for PV market development in the coming years?
Personally, I believe we should favour a smooth decrease of the feed-in tariffs as is the case in Germany. Should this initiative have been followed on a global scale, the PV business would have had the time to become a competitive business and, thus, hopefully it would no longer require any subsidies. However, this smooth decrease of the feed-in tariffs has not been applied everywhere. For example, in Spain the feed-in tariff regulation has suddenly been withdrawn. Also, Italy’s subsidy regulations seem to indicate they will be discontinued. If this is really the case, many PV sector suppliers will have a lot of headaches during the next years.



What is your personal view on the global PV market growth for the coming decade?
I find it surprising that presently there are (almost) only subsidies for the grid-connected PV systems (mainly subsidised via the feed-in tariffs). This leads to everybody focusing on grid-connected PV systems. This does, of course, help the PV business in general, which in turn can lead to price reductions which are good in general. However, for the future I expect more off-grid applications. I expect these off-grid applications to be integrated solutions consisting of power generation, storage and (powered) equipment. I expect to see more customised combinations of PV cells with batteries, or hydrogen, for various applications.

Thank you for the interview.

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