#MakeSolarEU: Solarstone's role in reshoring solar manufacturing to Europe

by Thérèse O Donoghue - 20 February 2024
Right now, the European solar manufacturing landscape is at a critical crossroads. Over ordering on the demand side, combined with overcapacity on the supply side, has resulted in a record drop in prices for solar modules and other system components. Two things can be true; Europe needs to be part of a globalised solar supply chain to meet climate targets and we must work harder to support European solar manufacturing.

SolarPower Europe is working to rebuild solar manufacturing in Europe. Why does solar manufacturing matter? Why aren't there more solar manufacturers in Europe? How do we bring solar manufacturing back to Europe?

In this new blog series, we will showcase the reality and potential of EU solar manufacturing, by interviewing some of Europe’s most important, and innovative manufacturing companies.


In our second interview, we sat down with three of Solarstone's founders: Silver Aednik, CEO; Mattis Jürimäe, COO; and Mait Kukk, CTO, to talk everything building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV). In September 2023, the manufacturer celebrated opening the largest BIPV manufacturing facility in Europe in Viljandi, Estonia.

Photo: Solarstone's BIPV factory in Estonia © Solarstone

1. Could you give us a history of Solarstone, and talk about what you build?

Like many innovative companies, Solarstone's journey began modestly in a garage in 2015. We fondly look back on those days as the starting point of our exciting journey into the world of renewable energy. Our humble beginnings remind us of our determination, passion, and drive that led us to where we are today.


In 2018, we inaugurated our factory in Viljandi, Estonia, marking a significant milestone in our history. 


However, the reach of our work extends far beyond our home base. We work globally, providing sustainable energy solutions to diverse markets worldwide. Our projects can be found in various countries across Europe and beyond, wherever there is a need for renewable, aesthetically pleasing, and functional energy solutions.


At Solarstone, we are pioneering the integration of solar energy into everyday life through our state-of-the-art BIPV systems. Our main product lineup includes the Solar Full Roof,® the Solar Tiled Roof,® and the Solar Carport,™ some featuring our patented Click-on® technology.


Our Solar Full Roof and Solar Tiled Roof solutions seamlessly replace conventional roofing materials, serving as functional elements of the building that generate electricity. What sets our systems apart is their aesthetic appeal and ease of installation, also thanks to our Click-on® technology. This innovation ensures quick and secure installation, with solar modules that simply click into place, providing a durable and efficient solar energy solution that also enhances the architectural design of the building.


On the other hand, our Solar Carport allows for the efficient use of open spaces to provide shelter for vehicles and a clean, renewable energy source. It's a dual-purpose solution that embodies our commitment to sustainable and functional design.

Photo: Solar Full Roof © Solarstone

2. Can you share a short description of what your product does in the solar value chain?

Our Solar Full Roof is a flagship product that combines our patented Click-on® technology with the world's best Tier 1 solar panels. This combination offers a cost-effective, and aesthetically pleasing solar roof solution for any home or business. It directly contributes to the solar value chain by providing a durable, efficient, and visually appealing alternative to traditional roofing materials, while producing clean energy.


Our Solar Tiled Roof is another innovative solution that we offer. It replaces regular roof tiles, and integrates seamlessly with the architectural integrity of the building. Doing so enhances the structure’s visual appeal, while generating clean energy, thus adding value to the solar ecosystem.


Our Solar Carport is designed to repurpose a parking area into a clean energy power station. Whether in your yard or a parking lot, this product transforms a typically non-productive space into a renewable energy source.


Together, these products enhance the solar value chain by integrating energy production into everyday structures, increasing the accessibility of renewable energy, and ultimately contributing to a more sustainable future.

3. How many solar cells/inverters/mounting systems etc. do you build a year?

Each year, we strive to increase our production to meet the increasing demand for solar solutions. Our annual production capacity for the building-integrated tile interlocking modules, also known as the Solar Tiled Roof solution, is 1.5 MW. Additionally, we have expanded our capacity to 60 MW for other solar applications, including the Solar Full Roof and Solar Carport, up from our previous capacity of 8 MW.

Photo: Factory workers in Solarstone's BIPV factory in Estonia © Solarstone

4. How many jobs does your factory create?

At Solarstone, we take pride in contributing to local employment and economic development. Our factory directly employs a growing team, which has doubled in size over the past two years. However, our impact goes beyond our direct employees. By partnering with various solar and roofing companies, we're facilitating the growth of a thriving ecosystem in the solar industry. This indirectly generates significant additional jobs (around 70), and brings immense value to our partners, thereby bolstering the broader economy. Solarstone is committed to creating and supporting employment opportunities within our community and the larger solar sector.

Photo: Operations in Solarstone's BIPV factory in Estonia © Solarstone

5. Why is building solar systems in Europe important?

Building solar systems in Europe holds a pivotal importance, as we navigate our way towards a more sustainable and resilient future. Solar energy, by its very nature, embodies sustainability. As a renewable and inexhaustible resource, it allows us to move away from fossil fuels. This shift is more than an environmental imperative; it's an opportunity to redefine how we generate and consume energy fundamentally.


Think of it as cultivating our energy independence. Each solar panel we install, every solar system we integrate, is a step away from reliance on imported energy. Instead, we begin to draw power from an abundant, domestic source: the sun. This transition to solar not only diversifies our energy mix, but also reinforces the security of our energy supply, reducing our vulnerability to fluctuations in global energy markets.


As we harness this solar potential, we're not merely producing energy; we're enhancing the resilience of our energy grids. Distributed solar installations, such as our building-integrated PV, feeds power into the grid where needed. This local energy generation helps reduce the strain on our energy infrastructure, particularly during peak demand times, making our grids more robust, and less susceptible to power outages.


As Europe's energy demand continues to rise, solar power stands at the forefront, ready to meet this growing demand. Solar energy isn’t just an addition to our energy mix; it's a vital component of our strategy to meet the evolving energy needs of our societies.


The importance of building solar systems in Europe is rooted in these realities - our quest for sustainable energy generation, our strive for energy independence, the need for a resilient grid, and meeting our growing energy demands. Given these challenges, solar energy isn’t just an option; it's a necessity. 

6. What do we need from politicians to make it happen?

Political will and commitment are critical catalysts in pursuing a solar-powered future. There are a few key areas where policymakers can significantly accelerate the deployment of solar power across Europe.


First and foremost, modernising our grid infrastructure is essential. Solar power's full potential can only be unleashed if our energy grids are equipped to handle the influx of renewable energy. This requires investments in smart grid technologies and energy storage solutions. 


Secondly, streamlining permitting processes can significantly speed up the deployment of solar power systems. Today, complex and time-consuming permit procedures often need to be revised for both businesses and homeowners wanting to invest in solar power. Establishing more efficient processes, reducing bureaucratic red tape, and providing clear guidelines, can significantly simplify the path to solar adoption.


In addition, clear and supportive policies and regulations provide the necessary framework for solar energy expansion. Stability and predictability in energy policies incentivise long-term investments in the sector. This includes everything from ensuring fair grid access for all solar producers, maintaining supportive net metering policies, and setting ambitious renewable energy targets.


Lastly, continued investments in research and development are crucial to drive further innovations. This includes direct investments into solar technologies and the broader renewable energy ecosystem, such as energy storage, electric vehicle infrastructure, and smart grid solutions.


By focusing on these critical areas - grid modernisation, streamlining permitting processes, establishing clear policies, and increasing research and development funding - policymakers can significantly accelerate the transition to a solar-powered future. At Solarstone, we look forward to continuing to work closely with policymakers, industry partners, and our customers to drive this vital transformation forward.

By focusing on these critical areas - grid modernisation, streamlining permitting processes, establishing clear policies, and increasing research and development funding - policymakers can significantly accelerate the transition to a solar-powered future.
Solarstone's founders Silver Aednik, CEO; Mattis Jürimäe, COO; and Mait Kukk, CTO
7. What is Solarstone’s biggest challenge and opportunity?

One of the greatest challenges we face as a company is the fragmentation of the supply chain in Europe. Given that we prioritise using high-quality components for our products, we find ourselves sourcing materials from multiple European countries, such as Finland, Spain, Turkey, Slovakia, and Germany. Despite Europe's tremendous progress in green technology, there's still a need to import some components from Asia, particularly China, due to their significant head start in certain aspects of the solar industry.


This situation sometimes introduces complexities and inefficiencies in our operations, such as managing logistics, maintaining inventory levels, and dealing with fluctuations in supply and demand. However, we constantly work on strategies to streamline and improve our supply chain processes. Ultimately, we aim to create a more self-reliant, sustainable, and efficient supply chain that will allow us to continue delivering the highest quality solar solutions to our customers.


As we look to the future, we see a great opportunity in the growing global awareness and adoption of renewable energy solutions. With the ongoing energy transition, people are increasingly seeking out sustainable, aesthetically pleasing and cost-effective solutions for their homes and businesses. This trend aligns perfectly with our core offerings, positioning Solarstone as a key player in this sector.


Furthermore, our patented Click-on® technology gives us a significant competitive advantage. Its ease of installation and maintenance, high efficiency, and aesthetic appeal, makes it an attractive choice for property owners looking to switch to solar energy.


Also, as Europe is making great strides in policy changes supporting renewable energy, this provides an encouraging landscape for us to grow and expand our operations. We see enormous potential in emerging markets as well as in established ones that are aiming to upgrade their renewable energy infrastructure. Our mission is to leverage these opportunities to make solar energy an accessible and practical choice for everyone, thereby accelerating the world's transition to renewable energy.

8. What sets your products, in particular your Solar Full Roof product, apart from other?

Our Solar Full Roof product is truly a marvel in the solar industry, combining advanced solar technology with an appealing aesthetic design that seamlessly integrates into any building structure. It's a two-in-one solution: you get an aesthetically pleasing roof and a modern energy production experience, all in one installation.


A unique feature of our Solar Full Roof product is our patented Click-on® technology that simplifies installation and maintenance. This allows for design flexibility to adapt your solar setup, to your needs. Our products can also be integrated with energy storage solutions, enabling you to store excess energy for peak demand periods or nighttime use.


For our export partners, we offer a high-performance, easy-to-install solution that helps them gain a competitive edge in the market. With our future-proof Click-on® technology and potential for integration with energy storage solutions, Solar Full Roof makes a strategic addition to their product portfolio.

Photo: Solar Full Roof © Solarstone

9. What is your long-term vision and plan for 2023 and beyond?

Our long-term vision and plan for 2023 and beyond, is ambitious, and focused on global expansion. We aim to establish a wider market presence in Nordic countries, Germany, and the United States. Our goal is to expand and become a leader in the industry. By 2026, we aspire to be among the world’s top 3 BIPV providers. This vision drives our strategies and actions, and we are committed to innovation, collaboration, and excellence to achieve these milestones.


By 2030, we envision Solarstone as one of the key household brands in BIPV, with numerous smart solar applications under our belt. We are working towards making the Full Solar Roof solution a new standard in the housing industry. This innovative approach will enable smarter use of Tier 1 modules, revolutionising how solar energy is integrated into everyday living. 

Photo: Solar Carport © Solarstone

10. What message would you give to your national & European politicians?

I would urge our national and European politicians to focus on providing prerequisites for a flexible grid, and allowing easy access for systems under 50kW. These measures are essential for fostering innovation and growth in the solar industry. By creating a more adaptable and accessible energy infrastructure, we can accelerate the transition to renewable energy, empower small and medium-sized producers, and make sustainable energy solutions more attainable for all. It's a step towards a greener future, that aligns with the broader goals of energy independence and environmental stewardship.

Header image: Solarstone's founders: Mait Kukk, CTO; Mattis Jürimäe, COO; and Silver Aednik, CEO (left to right) © Solarstone

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