German outfit brings own solar panel brand to Australia


1Komma5, a German startup backed by major European entrepreneurs and aggressively expanding into Australia, aims to produce its own solar panels for the Australian and European markets later this year. 1Komma5 founder Philipp Schröder told pv magazine Australia the company will produce 250 MW this year, but is aiming to entirely relocate production to Germany with a target of building its capacity to 5 GW by 2025.

The startup has signed a polysilicon supply contract with Munich-based chemical group Wacker, with Schröder saying its polysilicon will start being used as early as April. Polysilicon is a component of solar panels and is an industry currently highly concentrated in China. Forced labour is suspected to be used in polysilicon production, which is also an emissions intensive process.

1Komma5 claims by using Wacker’s polysilicon it will save more than 50% of carbon emissions from its value chain compared to commercially available materials from Asia. “The savings are from efficiency,” Schröder said, “and also since Germany’s energy mix, especially electricity, is almost 50% renewable energy and Wacker has focused on clean energy very early on.”

Philipp Schröder CEO 1Komma5° (left) and Chris Williams CEO & Founder of Natural Solar (right)

Image: 1komma5°

In terms of 1Komma5’s new modules, the company is already producing its 415W, TOPCon Full Black modules. They are set to become commercially available in Germany from June and in Australia from the third quarter of this year, according to Chris Williams, founder of Natural Solar and now the CEO of 1Komma5’s APAC arm.

1Komma5’s modules and wafers are currently being manufactured in China, but the startup is already searching for a location to house its module factory in Germany. It says this relocation will allow it to make all parts of its supply chain sustainable, including socially sustainable, as well as protecting it from geopolitical risks – a major trend in the Western world.

Australians are expected to be able to order 1Komma5’s new panels in the 10 weeks or so, Williams told pv magazine Australia. “Lots” of these news panels will be destined for Down Under, he added.

An 1Komma5 showroom in Europe

Image: 1komma5°

1Komma5 is aiming to become something of an “Apple store of energy” retailing and installing solar, batteries, electric vehicle chargers, heat pumps and the energy management platform to integrate them into a fully optimised home energy ‘ecosystem.

After starting up in Europe in 2021, the company entered the Australian market in October 2022 by acquiring a majority stake in one of Australia’s biggest home solar and battery installation companies, Natural Solar, followed by Solaray Energy in January. Having allocated $100 million (USD 67 million) for Australian growth, Williams said “we expect to announce further acquisitions in the next six to eight weeks.”

With this strategy, the company is seeking to leverage economies of scale to supercharge its procurement abilities and improve operational efficiencies through centralised logistics and warehousing. 

The startup is expected to open its first Sydney showroom soon.

Image: 1komma5°

Williams confirmed 1Komma5 will not exclusively be selling its own brand of solar panels, saying “we want to sell what Australian customers want.” While it is too early to quantify, Williams forecasts the in-house panel line could make up as much as 70% of the company’s sales in Australia. 

Williams believes there is a strong push towards “reputable” products, with concerns around problematic supply chains growing markedly in the last years. While residential is the primary focus of the 1Komma5 group, Williams noted the huge demand from commercial customers for products that meet modern slavery standards. “In a saturated market, that point of difference is critical,” he said.

It seems the company has also shifted its global strategy somewhat with the introduction of its own brand of panels. “The real news for us is that also companies that are not part of the group may apply for exclusive regional partnerships to resell both the module and our energy management system Heartbeat in combination with our CRM [customer relationship management software] and working capital tools,” Schröder said. Such an arrangement would allow the startup to grow its reach without the massive capital outlay on acquisitions.

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