Berlin solar start-up raises €15m

Zolar in Kreuzberg is setting its sights on international expansion.

Here comes the sun.
Here comes the sun.Sebastian Gollnow/dpa

Berlin-They've been celebrating at the Oranienstraße offices of the Kreuzberg start-up Zolar. With good reason: the firm has raised €15mln from investors. Fresh capital to help the company spread its vision of privately generated solar energy. 

"We want to revolutionise energy and help avert the climate crisis," said Zolar boss Alex Melzer. 

The company, founded in 2016, sells solar energy systems to homeowners. The aim is to help them "propel the transition to renewable energy from within their own four walls." Customers can plan their own bespoke solar system with Zolar's online configurator. Tailor-made, delivered and installed for a fixed-price. Zolar's local partners carry out the installation on site. The start-up now employs 100 people throughout Germany.

Business seems to be humming along. Zolar is profiting from a new  boom in solar energy in Germany. Although the firm hasn't released any figures, Zolar says its sales have doubled this year compared to the same period in 2019 – either despite or because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The new round of investment will be used to boost international expansion. "Anyone considering solar should have Zolar in mind," says Melzer. The company says it also wants to support affiliated solar installers in digitalising their internal processes

Once again, the main investor in this round is the Czech venture capital fund Inven Capital, which specialises in green tech. Iven invested €10mln in 2019 and continues to be upbeat about solar energy.

"We are seeing strong signs of an anti-cyclical trend in the photovoltaic market," says Inven Capital's Petr Míkovec, noting that due to the pandemic and the recession, consumers were seeking energy independence while hoping to increase the value of their homes.

About 1.7 million photovoltaic systems are in operation in Germany with a capacity of 49.5 gigawatts. They supply around nine per cent of the electricity produced in Germany.

Solar is currently experiencing a renaissance. The German market collapsed in 2013 but regained momentum in 2018. Last year, photovoltaics with a total capacity of 3.94 gigawatts were newly installed - three times more than in 2015. In 2019, 46.5 terawatt hours of power were generated by the sun in Germany.

According to network operator Stromnetz Berlin, 7,600 solar plants in Berlin have a joint capacity of 0.1 gigawatts.

The "Solarcity Masterplan" approved by the Berlin government in the spring provides a roadmap for the expansion of solar energy in the city. Under the plan, solar's share of power generation in Berlin is supposed to increase from the 1.3 to 25 per cent by 2050. In Berlin last year solar supplied enough power to meet the needs of 20,000 three-person households.