Is the solar slump over?

Seems to me that solar is shining bright again from the recent activities I saw the past few weeks. Interestingly enough, most of the news are coming from chemical companies that developed new materials to make photovoltaics more efficient and cheaper.

  • BASF presented its Seluris range of cutting fluids products for cutting, etching, texturing and doping mono- and polycrystalline solar cells; and COLO-Fast® polyurethane casting system for more economical and secure framing of photovoltaic and solar panels.

  • Dow Electronic Materials launched its ENLIGHT™ photovoltaic products, which the company said, increase solar cell efficiency and yield, improve device performance at low cost, and enable faster adoption of solar energy as a renewable energy alternative. The products are used on PV cleaning, imaging, texturizing, and metallization. Dow Chemical’s adhesives and functional polymers business also presented its Adcote™ solventless adhesives for photovoltaic backsheet applications.

  • Dow Corning says it just commercialized a breakthrough solar cell encapsulation technology that improves performance and effectively lowers the cost per kilowatt-hour of solar power. The PV-6100 Encapsulant Series are said to provide an ultra-transparent layer of protection for the solar cell in a panel and can replace incumbent technologies.
  • Mitsubishi released its UJ6 series of high-efficiency polycrystalline photovoltaic modules. The new cells have four bus bars, said to be an improvement over traditional two bus bar cells, and are designed for medium- and large-scale commercial installations.
  • Arkema presents its Apolhya™ Solar, a nanostructured thermoplastic polymer for the encapsulation of new generation photovoltaic modules. One key advantage is its processing, which requires no curing, says Arkema. The product saves time in the production process, while making end-of-life panels very easy to recycle.
  • Wacker Chemie launched its TECTOSIL®, a plastic film designed for the encapsulation of photovoltaic modules, and is made out of a thermoplastic silicone elastomer that is pliable when heated, making it fast and easy to process. The company also showcased new silicones for PV applications from its ELASTOSIL® Solar product line.
  • DSM says its KhepriCoat™ anti-reflective coating system has contributed to achieving the highest energy conversion ever of a full-size solar module.

Joint ventures, deals and new capacities:

  • Air Products‘ Indian joint venture INOX Air Products Ltd. signed two new contracts with Indian photovoltaic (PV) manufacturers for the company’s SunSource™ Solutions gases and materials to support the burgeoning India PV market.
  • DuPont and Applied Materials are collaborating to advance multiple printing technology expected to increase the absolute efficiency of crystalline silicon (c-Si) photovoltaic (PV) solar cells. The company will also invest $120m to increase capacity for its Tedlar PV module materials in Louisville, KY, and Fayetteville, N.C. sites.

  • Showa Shell Sekiyu K.K. and its subsidiary Showa Shell Solar K.K. will construct their third CIS photovoltaic plant in Miyazaki Prefecture, which is planned to start operations in 2011.

  • Dow Corning will start construction of its manufacturing plant in Thomas Township of Michigan that will manufacture monosilane gas-a key material used to manufacture thin-film solar cells. Dow Corning will also unveil a solar panel installation and Solar Discovery Center at its corporate headquarters in Midland, Mich.

  • Solyndra, Inc. started construction of its second solar panel manufacturing plant in Fremont, California. The plant is designed to produce 500 megawatts/year of solar panel capacity.

According to market research firm Pike Research, the distributed solar energy market is poised for dramatic growth over the next few years, and global installed capacity is expected to approach 2.5 gigawatts by 2012, with annual system revenues surpassing $55 billion. The U.S. will become the largest market for small solar energy installations by 2011, surpassing Germany, the report said.

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