Solar may reach grid parity in 5 years - US Dow Corning CEO

09 June 2009 20:11  [Source: ICIS news]

NEW YORK (ICIS news)--Solar grid-parity, the point at which solar power becomes economically competitive with conventional power sources, could arrive within the next five years, Dow Corning CEO Stephanie Burns said on Tuesday.

“Most of the world is still incentivising solar power, but as we look at continued efficiency gains, we see grid parity only a few years out – we are getting closer every day, and we hope to see this before five years,” Burns said at a press conference in New York City.

The US-based silicon-based materials firm produces polysilicon, the key material used in crystalline-based solar cells, through its 63% owned joint venture firm Hemlock Semiconductor, based in Hemlock, Michigan.

Hemlock’s minority owners are Japan’s Shin-Etsu Handotai and Mitsubishi Materials.

Dow Corning also manufactures silicone encapsulants, which cover solar panels and increase the energy efficiency and longevity of those panels.

In the past five years, Dow Corning and Hemlock have announced around $5bn (€3.6bn) in solar-related investments, Burns said.

Hemlock is expanding polysilicon capacity at its site in Hemlock, Michigan, aiming to boost total capacity to 36,000 tonnes/year through two phases.

On 27 May, Hemlock announced it completed the first phase of its $1bn polysilicon expansion, bringing on line 8,500 tonnes/year of capacity. The second phase is expected to come on line in 2010.

Dow Corning itself is building a high-purity monosilane gas facility to make thin-film solar cells, adjacent to Hemlock’s polysilicon site. It is expected for completion at the end of 2011, Burns said.

Thin-film solar cells are produced by depositing a thin film of silicon, enabled by monosilane gas, onto a sheet of another material such as glass.

($1 = €0.72)

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