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German home solar power firm sees bright future as demand soars

FILE PHOTO: Workers mount solar panels on the roof of the Olympic Stadium or Olympiastadion in Berlin

By Vera Eckert and Tom Käckenhoff

FRANKFURT/DUESSELDORF (Reuters) - Soaring demand for home solar power systems in Germany could boost revenues at Solarwatt by more than 50% this year to 500 million euros ($538 million) and lift them to 1 billion euros in 2025, its chief executive told Reuters.

"Growth is strong and healthy," Detlef Neuhaus said in an interview, adding profitability should be reached this year.

By installing solar panels, batteries and heat pumps, home owners are seeking to cut their energy bills after huge price hikes last year when Russia cut fossil fuel exports to the West.

"We are a life-long supplier to people who want to become self-reliant on renewable energy," said Neuhaus.

Solarwatt provides high-end photovoltaic rooftop systems that can be combined with its storage batteries and energy management devices, or those from other suppliers.

As such, the company hopes to reduce its vulnerability to cheaper Asian rivals that have brought down some other German solar firms in the past decade.

Solarwatt's sales in 2022 totalled 330 million euros, more than double the 160 million of 2021.

Turnover of solar systems at the Dresden-based company is expected to rise to 100,000 this year, from 66,000 in 2022 and 32,000 in 2021.

Apart from saving money, homeowners want to reduce their impact on the environment, not just in how they power and heat their homes, but how they run their electric cars, Neuhaus said.

"That is logical, given home solar production costs 10 to 12 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) and buying-in from the utilities costs 45 cents," he said.

One challenge, though, is shortages of parts and labour.

"There are still difficulties with supply chains and installation capacities," Neuhaus said.

Also, customers wanting an entire solar-based value chain with panels, battery, heat pump, and digital management, may have to spend a few tens of thousands of euros before they are able to throw out their gas boiler.

Solarwatt is 98%-owned by billionaire BMW shareholder Stefan Quandt.

The company, which operates in a handful of other European markets, plans to raise staff numbers to 940 this year from 810 in 2022 and 600 in 2021.

($1 = 0.9288 euros)

(Reporting by Vera Eckert and Tom Kaeckenhoff; Editing by Paul Carrel and Mark Potter)