#MakeSolarEU: SMA's vision for European solar manufacturing

by Ludovica Longo - 18 April 2024
The European solar manufacturing landscape is at a critical crossroads. Insolvencies amongst European solar manufacturers – particularly at the early stages of the supply chain are piling up, while more are announcing plans to reduce to capacity. EU and national policymakers must act rapidly to support struggling manufacturers. At one end of the supply chain, however, there is some light shining through.

Converting DC to AC, inverters make it possible to use solar electricity. Crucially, inverters are a key tool supporting the grid with smart digital solutions that help balance generation with demand. 


Today, the European inverter industry already has more than 60 GW of manufacturing capacity, and as of 2022 employed more than 35,000 people (representing 70% of the solar manufacturing jobs in Europe). But we’ve seen the damage that complacency can do to a value chain. We must ensure that the success story of European inverters continues. 

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


For our third interview, we had the opportunity to engage in a discussion with Markus Huelfenhaus, Head of Plant Germany at SMA Solar Technology AG, along with Christoph Zopf, Head of Process Engineering and Manufacturing Solutions and Eric Quiring, Head of Public Affairs. Our conversation delved into their pioneering solutions for solar and storage applications, as well as the current landscape of the solar industry.

Photo: SMA Solar Technology AG's Niestetal solar park in Sandershäuser Berg © SMA Solar Technology AG

1. What does SMA build, where do you build it and when was your factory inaugurated?

Established in 1981, SMA has forged a legacy of over four decades in driving renewable energy advancement and pioneering technological trends. With subsidiaries dedicated to sales and service spanning 20 countries, our headquarters reside in Niestetal, Germany. SMA specializes in the development and manufacture of diverse solar inverters and  energy solutions, catering to various segments and markets worldwide.


Our product range encompasses small-scale inverters, ranging from 1.5 kW to 25 kW, tailored for residential use, alongside larger inverters serving the commercial, industrial, and utility-scale sectors. Within these segments, SMA delivers a spectrum of solutions, including pure PV inverters, hybrid inverters, power-to-gas technologies, and storage solutions. Additionally, we offer electric vehicle (EV) charging systems for both residential and commercial applications.


These products are manufactured in our facilities in Germany, housed within two separate buildings, with an additional factory currently under construction to further augment our production capacity. Moreover, our commitment extends beyond manufacturing, as we provide comprehensive repair services for our inverters worldwide.

2. How much are you producing in terms of inverters and how many jobs does your factory create?

Currently, the existing factory boasts a capacity of 21 GW across its product range. The forthcoming SMA GIGAWATT FACTORY, currently under construction, is slated to amplify this capacity to 40 GW by 2025. Presently, the workforce comprises 1000 employees, and the expansion project is expected to result in the recruitment of over 200 additional personnel.

Photo: Eric Quiring, Director of Global Public Affairs at SMA Solar Technology AG © SMA Solar Technology AG

3. What distinguishes your product from others?

Our product stands out due to the high standard of quality and our unwavering dedication to excellence, underpinned by advanced processes and cutting-edge technology utilised throughout our production. We prioritise digitalisation and maintain a steadfast focus on sustainability, ensuring that our operations are environmentally responsible. Moreover, our product is renowned for its reliability and resilience. And - increasingly important - it meets all the requirements for data security, thus contributing to a secure supply of energy from renewable sources.

4. Where does this factory get its energy from?

Notably, since 2020, our headquarters factory has been powered by renewable energy from its immediate surroundings, further underscoring our commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship.

Photo: Christoph Zopf, Head of Process Engineering & Manufacturing Solutions at SMA Solar Technology AG © SMA Solar Technology AG

5. Why is building solar systems in Europe important?

The manufacturing of solar components in Europe is pivotal not just for EU enterprises and employment opportunities, but also for the sustained progress of the energy transition. The perils of relying heavily on Asian manufacturers have been starkly evident, particularly during the COVID pandemic. As Europeans, we must therefore take our energy supply into our own hands.  In addition, issues such as sustainability and cybersecurity are playing an increasingly important role for customers and the security of energy supply. To uphold the requisite standards and quality in these domains, Europe's role as a hub for research and production remains indispensable.  

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

Policymakers in Germany and the EU should exert every effort to bolster our innovative firms in the renewable energy domain.


We must steer clear of overreliance on imports. However, we must also avoid repeating past errors by halting all trade with China. Failure to do so could jeopardise the success of the energy transition. Rapid and resolute implementation of the framework outlined in the European Union's Net Zero Industrial Act is now imperative. Both manufacturers and customers require certainty in planning at this critical juncture.

7. How does it feel to be leading the energy transition?

Since SMA's establishment over 40 years ago, we have been dedicated to manufacturing products and solutions that facilitate widespread access to renewable energy in a cost-effective manner. This commitment extends globally. At SMA, our daily motivation stems from the realisation that our energy systems play a pivotal role in advancing the global energy transition, ultimately contributing to a brighter future for all. 

Photo: Electronics production at SMA Solar's production facility in Niestetal, near Kassel, Germany © SMA Solar Technology AG

8. What’s the company’s biggest challenge?

In order to continue a successful path and meet climate targets, companies need a policy framework in which they can operate in a reliable and future-proof way. With deglobalisation trends, we are facing new challenges in the supply chain. 

9. Does the Inflation Reduction Act inspire you, or concern you?

The IRA serves as a robust indication of the United States' commitment to renewable energy supply and the corresponding industry. Similar political signals in Europe would be highly beneficial. This initiative encourages us to prioritise regional approaches. But the supply chain still does not cover this ambitious plan under the IRA, so localising the manufacturing base needs to start with the supply chain, not the end product. Otherwise, companies will have to spread their investments to cover global and regional needs.

10. What’s the company’s biggest opportunity?

The shift to renewable energies is an immense undertaking that demands cutting-edge energy solutions. SMA stands ready to manufacture and introduce these innovations to the market, drawing upon over 40 years of pioneering experience in the solar power industry. Our paramount expertise lies in seamlessly integrating photovoltaics into buildings, grid systems, and diverse consumer requirements.

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

Maintain focus on climate targets and seize the opportunity to achieve them without undermining the European solar manufacturing industry. Establish an appealing policy framework, mirroring successful models adopted by other nations, and commit to its long-term implementation. The transformation we're collectively striving for requires sustained dedication and perseverance.

Header image: Markus Huelfenhaus, Head of Plant Germany at SMA Solar Technology AG © SMA Solar Technology AG

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