www.photovoltaik.eu | 2015 | 75212




Withstanding the crisis: high-quality products and

high-yield systems are IBC SOLAR’s secret of success

Translation for


photovoltaik 06/2015


ENERGY | Commercial & Communal


System service provider — IBC SOLAR has been operating in the solar business for more

than 30 years. Many pioneers of photovoltaics have since vanished, but the Franconians

are holding their own. The secret of their success: high-quality of products and high-yield

systems. Heiko Schwarzburger

Photo: IBC Solar

Ability to supply is the trump card: in order to quickly process orders, IBC SOLAR has numerous logistic centres.


ike a new-born with scarlet fever, the solar

industry has had to withstand a severe

crisis for three years now. Many companies

in the industry have disappeared from the young

market: with headlines or with a whimper. The

first guard, the pioneers of the solar energy revolution,

went quiet.

The death of Hermann Scheer in October 2010

was an omen that fortune would blow a new

wind from politics: within a short time, the

conservative coalition in Berlin choked off the

energy revolution, later succeeded by the conservative

grand coalition. Within just a few years,

Solon, Centrosolar, Sunways, Platinum, almost Q-

Cells, almost SMA, almost Solarworld and Solarwatt

and many thousands of solar installers disappeared.

But whenever the ICE high speed train swooshes

from Thuringia to Bamberg, the red and white

signet of IBC SOLAR still flies past. Almost like a

small village of Gauls in the middle of a flood of

Roman legions.

These Franconians are holding their own. For at

IBC SOLAR, too, the crisis has not passed over

without a trace. From what was formerly 300 employees

in Germany, 80 had to go, which was

bitter. At least 200 jobs were saved, plus 100

abroad. “Now we have to rehire former employees,“

says Udo Möhrstedt, founder and CEO of

IBC SOLAR. “At the moment we are writing more

proposals than we have people.“

How time flies: in 1982, Udo Möhrstedt began to

build and test solar plants. Back then, Brezhnev

was still alive, Gorbachev was not yet in sight.

Four years later, a reactor exploded in Chernobyl.

Five years later, Ronald Reagan stood at the

Branden burg Gate: “Mister Gorbachev, tear down

this wall!“ A madman named Mathias Rust landed

on Red Square. Bad Staffelstein in Upper Franconia

was a stone’s throw from the Iron Curtain

– the heavily guarded border towards Thuringia.

Have you forgotten?

Those who spoke of solar energy in 1982 or 1987,

in the age of nuclear powers brimming with

weapons, were easily dismissed as nutballs. “Back

then I developed a pivot mounting for solar modules

in my garden,“ recalls Möhrstedt. One of

the first offices was above a bicycle shop – there

where the company’s headquarters still are today.

As time went on, his company filled more and

more rooms, expanded, put a roof over the court-

photovoltaik 06 / 2015

Commercial & Communal | ENERGY


yard. In the meantime the physicist has spent

almost half a century with photovoltaics. And

the industry has developed colossally, regard less

of all the peaks and troughs. “Even back then, I

measured the modules precisely. I was always

about high-quality workmanship and high yields

over the year, not necessarily high peak performances

in watts.“

Starting with battery technology

IBC SOLAR was founded in 1982 as an engineering

firm for solar technology and batteries. That’s

right: even back then Möhrstedt had energy storage

in mind. For after studying in Münster and

Giessen he earned his spurs as head of the application

technology department at battery manufacturer

Varta. After that he switched to Moll

Akkumulatoren. Today IBC SOLAR is one of the

leading medium-sized enterprises in Bavaria –

the company has been listed amongst ‘Bavaria’s

Best 50’ three times. Möhrstedt is also on the city

council for CSU (Christian Social Union party),

getting involved in regional politics.

Looking back now, you could say that IBC

SOLAR was neither fish nor fowl – and precisely

that is what saved the company during the hard

times. IBC SOLAR has never manufactured its

own modules, has never had factories like a ball

and chain. “We started with Kyocera modules,

which produced 43 watts back then,“ remembers

Möhrstedt. “We later developed a module with

Solarex which produced 120 watts and was optimised

for as high a yield as possible. We introduced

that in 1997.“

Right from A to Z

Since then, IBC SOLAR has operated as a system

service provider with solar modules that are produced

by OEM suppliers and distributed under

its own umbrella brand. “With us, the PV system

has to be right from A to Z,“ says Möhrstedt.

“That’s the right way. Our plants have outstanding

values.“ But in the commercial and project

business, IBC SOLAR also sells modules under the

brands of the manufacturers.

Then again, IBC SOLAR has never been purely

a wholesaler or purely an installer. The project

business is an important pillar, but the system idea

was at the core. Such a business model has proven

itself to be so robust that companies such as Solarwatt

or Solarworld are now moving in a similar


Over the years IBC SOLAR has built up around

150 megawatts just in solar funds. “They have

higher rates of interest than they would if I just put

the money in the bank,“ explains Udo Möhrstedt.

Perhaps the secret of his success is also not to

Photo: IBC Solar

The incoming solar modules are inspected and checked.

ZAE Bayern

Model test for Smart Grid with solar generators

The ‘Smart Grid Solar’ model test managed by ZAE Bayern tests the integration of photovoltaics into the low-voltage grid.

With a neighbourhood storage unit in Hof, Upper Franconia, a central component of the project was added to the grid in

May. One of the industrial partners was IBC SOLAR – supplier and responsible for the grid integration of the major storage

unit with 660 kilowatt hours capacity, of which 330 kilowatt hours are used.

In Epplas, a rural part of Hof, almost all inhabitants have agreed to support the research project and to allow their houses

to be equipped with smart meters. What’s special about this location is that 13 photovoltaic plants are to be installed in

16 households with a total output of 287 kilowatts. Over the course of a year, Epplas produces more than twice as much

electricity as it consumes. The research team has been using a neighbourhood storage unit with lead gel technology in the

local low-voltage grid since April 2015 in order to regulate the stresses created in the feed-in of the photovoltaic electricity.

The effects on the grid are recorded continuously by the smart meters and transferred to Hof University, where the data is


Storage experts from IBC SOLAR are responsible for the technical components and grid integration of the neighbourhood

storage unit. The system service provider has already been working on a pilot project with a neighbourhood storage unit

since 2011 in the local grid of Fechheim (Upper Franconia).

The scientists used the approach of the grid operators for orientation when dimensioning the neighbourhood storage unit.

For planning their grids, they assume that all solar plants feed into the grid at the same time at full capacity, whilst no

consumption is required.

The storage unit’s capacity was dimensioned with a maximum power input of 70 kilowatts and an overall capacity of

660 kilowatt hours so that the feed in peaks are buffered above a defined capacity. This allows a further increase of

photovoltaics without having to reinforce the low-voltage grid.

The ‘Smart Grid Solar’ research project is supported by the European Union from the fund for regional development and by

the State of Bavaria with almost seven million euros.


www.zae-bayern.de | www.smart-grid-solar.de

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Photo: IBC Solar

Photo: IBC Solar

Udo Möhrstedt is one of the pioneers in photovoltaics

Two climatic chambers in Bad Staffelstein subject the solar modules to long-term stress tests.

grow too quickly, but just to expand conservatively.

Breathe when the market allows it. “Our

equity ratio is at more than 80 per cent,“ he says,

not without pride.

IBC SOLAR won two megawatt parks in the

latest tenders from the German Federal Network

Agency. One plant will be set up in the federal state

of Baden-Württemberg and will produce 1.7 megawatts.

The second park will be set up in Brandenburg

with 7.5 megawatts. “We will build the plants

in the first half of 2016,“ says the company head.

“If we had built them according to the Renewable

Energy Act (EEG) feed-in tariff, it would have been

cheaper for the state.“

New race until the end of August

As expected, the tender has made the solar parks

more expensive rather than reducing the prices.

Furthermore, the quantity of 150 megawatts

offered with tenders was over-subscribed more

than five times. Projects that were not awarded

a tender now have to be built by 31 August to

receive feed-in tariff.

After that, the EEG will not accept any feed-in

tariffs for plants with more than one megawatt,

then new parks have to sell their yields via

power purchasing agreements. “We are currently

being flooded with enquiries,“ says Möhrstedt.

“Nobody knows how things will continue after

August. Currently, we barely have enough personnel

to write proposals. So we are reinstating

former employees here and there.“ In the project

business, the Franconians are concentrating on

plants under ten megawatts, mostly up to five

megawatts. They did not join in the hype in the

United Kingdom, where the big wave is already

ebbing away again. “I really don’t think much of

gigantic solar parks with 40 or 50 megawatts,“

concludes the expert. “Photovoltaics is decentralised,

it doesn’t need reinforced power lines.

If small megawatt plants are distributed all over

Germany, the electricity supply can be converted

intelligently with minimal grid costs. Just take a

look at the UK: there, photovoltaics is conglomerating

in the south. But the consumers are

located in London or the Midlands.“

Nobody in Bavaria wants wind power from

the sea, which has to be transported right across

the country using expensive high voltage grids.

Nobody wants electricity from coal. Möhrstedt

himself comes from a real mining family, from

the Ruhr Valley, where it was the blackest and


Lessons from the Ruhr Valley

His father was a hauling machine operator in the

coal mines, his grandfathers also worked in the

shafts and settlements as miners or administrators.

He learnt one important lesson: “A company

has to be strong in its own country to have a

chance abroad.“

This is an iron principle of the industry, dating

back to the times of coal and steel. Even the

global success of one Werner von Siemens would

be unthinkable without the electrification of


IBC SOLAR was careful with foreign involvements,

expensive offices and operating structures,

feeding from the delicate plant of hope.

Udo Möhrstedt explains: “This is how we

managed to increase our shares in the declining

German photovoltaics market.“

Today the company today is supported by

around 600 installers nationwide who buy from

it and build with it.

Pioneers of storage technology

And IBC SOLAR did something else differently

too: the company never forgot that photovoltaics

is not a power plant technology that can only

work with the power grid. That is its main difference

to the large wind parks, coal mines and

nuclear fuel rods. But if it is to make full use of

its advantages, it needs storage – and additional

generators for electricity and warmth, such as

combined heat and power plants (CHP).

That’s why IBC SOLAR was not only one of the

pioneers of photovoltaics, it was also at the start

of the development of stationary battery storage

units three or four years ago. The company has

sold around 1,000 storage units year on year

since 2012. “We don’t run after every trend,“ says

Udo Möhrstedt. “That’s why we have taken until

this year to release a DC-coupled storage system

onto the market.“

IBS SOLAR has been and remains very successful

with AC-coupled systems. The self-sufficient

Energy Factory (EnFa) in Neuenstadt am Kocher

near Heilbronn, for example, has a completely independent

energy supply. Only a biogas line is

required in order to cover the loads of the heating

period with the CHP.

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money which is with the banks and isn’t earning

interest anymore.“

In his opinion, the energy revolution is already

underway: “People still have the idea in their

heads that photovoltaics is too expensive. This

revolution in people’s heads is the main task:

there are no longer quick profits to be made with

photovoltaics, but there are big savings.“

Photo: IBC Solar

Around 1.5 megawatts were installed on the roof of this IKEA store in Switzerland, together with BE Netz AG.

Intersolar Award 2015

Award-winning off-grid factory

IBC SOLAR and its Premium Partner Widmann Energietechnik have won this year’s Intersolar Award in the category PV

Projects in Europe for their project EnFa – The Energy Factory. The project is a completely off-grid self-sufficient office and

workshop complex that has no connection to the public grid and relies only on renewable energies. The developer and

constructor of the building is Friedhelm Widmann, Premium Partner of IBC SOLAR AG, which

provided photovoltaic and storage systems. “The motivation for constructing EnFa came from the

excruciating discussion on the feasibility and financing of the turnaround in energy policy,” says

Friedhelm Widmann. “I wanted to show that in 2014 we are already in a position to realise a stable

and economically attractive energy supply based solely on renewable energy.” The trend- setting

design with a mixture of production and storage types was chosen by a specialist jury for the

Inter solar Award 2015: EnFa – The Energy Fac tory shows in a prototypical way how a closely linked

and intelligent power network should work.

G www.ibc-solar.de/EN

The factory offers 600 square metres of office

space and 350 square metres of workshop space.

68 kilowatt photovoltaic modules on the facade

and 44 kilowatt modules on the roof produce

energy. The biogas CHP generates 40 kilowatts

electrically and 80 kilowatts thermally. The battery

storage unit with lead cells can store up to

400 kilowatt hours. The heat pump allows the

modulating power input of three to 33 kilowatts.

Three filling stations for electrical vehicles are

integrated into the charging management. The

EnFa was equipped and planned by Widmann

Energietechnik with the support of IBC SOLAR. It

has been running since last autumn. The mix of

various energy systems allows costs of ten cents

per kilowatt hour – without grid fees, taxes or

EEG levies.

The company boss’s expectations for the current

business year: “It will surely not be any

worse than 2014.“ Udo Möhrstedt wants to offset

220 or 230 megawatts in the distribution

business as a system service provider. “Now

the storage units have to get to the houses and

small commercial businesses,“ he says. “Then

they can be networked in order to call up operating

reserves from the grid.“ There is also

enough money available to invest in photovoltaics

and storage. “People are sitting on their

Hard-tested modules

There are many ways for installers to cooperate

with IBC SOLAR: as Certified Premium Partners,

Premium Partners, Partners or occasional buyers.

“The important thing is: the installers have the

security of working with a company that is financially

very well-equipped,“ says Udo Möhrstedt.

“Nothing will knock us down in a hurry. We can

survive the occasional poor year, that we have


His offer goes beyond the components and

complete systems. IBC SOLAR offers its own

product portfolio and warranty conditions within

the IBC SOLAR Line, the company brand. Here,

the supplier modules are subjected to tough

tests. The engineers of the factories regularly

audit the module manufacturers. The goods are

shelved in four main logistic centres.

Their own climatic chambers allow extensive

tests on the modules in order to rule out delamination

or discolouration. Its own flasher with

integrated electroluminescence (EL) technology

couples the flashlight generator with a highresolution

EL camera, for tasks such as quick inspections

for transport damage. Furthermore,

IBC SOLAR commissions institutes such as the

Fraunhofer ISE or TÜV in Cologne with testing.

IBC SOLAR no longer has its own brand of inverters,

as this effort is hardly worthwhile nowadays,

and installs and sells inverters by SMA,

Fronius and Sungrow.

Bank and warehouse for the installers

This is what characterises a successful system

service provider: long-standing experience with

technology and components for more than three

decades. Those who buy from IBC SOLAR receive

tested and checked goods. The Franconian company

also offers installers further training as certified

experts together with TÜV Rheinland.

The training as a storage expert certified by

TÜV is new and is also offered in Bad Staffelstein.

Installation partners are also supported

by brochures, stickers, posters and sales aids.

Udo Möhrstedt summaries. “We are the bank

and the storehouse of our customers. With major

projects in Germany, we even offer financial


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