In a press release on 12 June, just one week before the Intersolar Europe, Austrian foam producer and plastic processing company Greiner Group announced to close down Greiner Renewable Energy (GRE). GRE had acquired the three solar companies Sun Master, Xolar and Solution little more than two years ago, in January 2011. The booth of Sun Master in hall B1 at the Intersolar was only filled with canvas chairs for the visitors to relax.
Photo: Jan Gesthuizen
All three companies had already been in financial difficulties when GRE invested in them. “We came to realise that a turnaround in the solar sector requires us to invest much more than we could possibly gain from it,” Hannes Moser, Chief Financial Officer of Greiner Holding, said in the press release from 12 June.
With Sun Master, one of Austria’s oldest and most experienced collector manufacturers has gone out of business. The company started producing solar thermal collectors in 1979. With a production of 90,000 m² of solar collectors in 2011 (according to the solar thermal world map by solrico), Sun Master was the second-largest manufacturer of flat plate collectors in Austria, selling its collectors to OEM customers. Xolar was a solar thermal system integrator founded by Herbert Huemer. Huemer was also the founder of Sun Master and had been its owner prior the acquisition. Solution was specialised in the wholesale of solar thermal systems to plumbers. While the former owners of the companies had initially kept a share of 20 % (in Sun Master and Xolar) and 10 % (in Solution), GRE ultimately bought up all of their stakes in the companies.
GRE itself is an enterprise of Greiner Technology & Innovation (GTI), which is one of five companies that have been part of the Greiner Holding since the latest reorganisation in 2010. While GRE is closing down, Greiner Technology & Innovation will continue, and with it the work on the SolPol research project at GTI. SolPol is an Austrian research cooperation between nine scientific and ten company partners. It aims to identify application areas for polymers in solar thermal.
“We believe that the future belongs to renewable energies. This is why we will continue working on the SolPol research project and will put our expertise that we have gained in this sector over the years to use in research and development,” Axel Kühner, Chairman of the Management Board of Greiner Holding, said in the press release.
Currently, GRE has around 100 employees working in Eberstalzell, the town in which the solar thermal business was located. While Xolar and Sun Master had been based there from the beginning, the former Solution staff just moved to Eberstalzell about half a year ago from nearby Sattledt. Greiner has pledged to provide new jobs to as many GRE employees as possible in other companies of the group. For example, the company’s headquarter with more than 2,000 employees is located at Kremsmünster, just 13 km from Eberstalzell. Greiner says that the company is working on a well-structured close-down and cannot elaborate on the reorganisation schedule at the present time.
Greiner Renewable Energy is the next company in a series of insolvencies that has plagued the solar thermal industry in Austria. This year alone, there have already been two other cases, that of Geo-Tec and Ökotech. While Geo-Tec is already out of business and has sold its production equipment, Ökotech has still been operating with a reduced staff of 21 employees.
This text was written by Eva Augsten, a German freelance journalist specialised in renewable energies ( firstname.lastname@example.org ).
Greiner press release
SolPol project (in German only)
Geo-Tec insolvency (in German only): www.wirtschaft-aktuell.at/geo-tec-solar-aus-spittal-insolvent
Ökotech (website in German only): www.oekotech.biz