Volume 44, Issue 12 - December 2009


event news
Solar “Panel” Discusses Industry Hype

Russ Ebeid, president of Guardian Industries’ Glass Group, moderated the “hard-hitting look inside all the talk about solar technologies” during a solar “panel” that took place during GlassBuild America in early October (see page 64 for more). We are “sorting through the hopes, the hype and even the hooey, about what we in the glass industry can really expect to realize from solar technology,” Ebeid said.

In talking about what he called an industry “game-changer,” Ebeid pointed out, “… merely restructuring the current business model will not handle new consumer-driven innovations. Solar technologies cannot be oversimplified, like iPhones or Blackberries. But, like those inventions and the companies that stand behind them, the financial health of a company depends on its role in creating tomorrow’s market.”

Photovoltaic (PV) glass consultant Steve Coonen urged the glass industry to create a role for itself in the solar market. “The glass industry has not taken on this PV challenge in full yet,” Coonen said.

He advised that each level of the industry take a closer look so as not to be edged out of work by eager solar contractors. “PV glass should be handled like any other glazing product,” he said.

For example, glazing contractors should take a look at how to integrate PV projects—at this point more common in canopies than in facades—into their competency.

“Glass for solar modules … should be installed by the glazing contractor who’s already on the jobsite,” Coonen said.

He also encouraged window manufacturers to find ways to work with solar products, such as finding ways to accommodate wiring inside of mullion systems. “The glass industry needs to take this electricity and run with it,” he said.

During the presentation Ebeid also pointed out, “There are a lot of solar technologies vying for funding and needing to demonstrate cost-effective proof of performance.”

Scott Thomsen, also of Guardian Industries, provided an overview of the oft-overlooked concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies because, he noted, almost 70 percent of the gigawatts (GW) installed in the near future will be CSP. This technology is used in large-scale utilities and has the ability to store power, unlike with PV installations. He provided an overview of the four primary types of CSP, and the challenges of each:

• In the Western U.S., he explained, nearly eight GW of parabolic trough solar fields are in the pipeline for construction. The challenge with this technology is that it requires lots of water;

• Central receiver technology, Thomsen cautioned, is similar to PV in that it has no storage capabilities and so energy must go straight to the grid;

• While Fresnel collectors have lower capital costs than other solar technologies, it has not yet been fully implemented; and

• Dish engine technology, which Thomsen said has high potential, has as yet to have that potential demonstrated.

Thomsen predicted a “technology shakedown” to occur in the next 3 to 5 years, determining which of these will become “mainstream,” since not all solar technologies will become cost-efficient. In the meantime, “The focus should be driving efficiencies up and not driving costs down,” he said.

Ebeid summarized the expectation that solar grid parity at the utility-scale level is expected to occur in the next couple of years. “So far in the U.S., the appetite for solar projects has lagged behind places like Germany and Spain. Yet reports suggest that we’ll pass Spain next year and Germany by 2013. Again is this realistic?” he asked. “Is it timely? Meanwhile, what lessons can we learn from those countries experienced in developing and implementing solar energy?”

To watch Russ Ebeid’s Solar Minutes video introducing the speakers, visit the video section of www.solarglazingmag.com.


company news
FLABEG Opens New Solar Mirror Facility in Pittsburgh

FLABEG has opened a new production facility for solar mirrors used to help generate electricity at large-scale solar power plants. The new manufacturing facility in Pittsburgh is expected to have an annual capacity to deliver parabolic curved mirrors up to 450 megawatts (MW) for PT plants. This production site is equipped to produce both untempered and now tempered solar mirrors.

“Our philosophy has undergone no change, nevertheless we want to be fully prepared for all possible changes in the law,” says Axel Buchholz, FLABEG chief executive officer, on the extended production range. “We expect some federal states will introduce standards for safety glass for concentrated solar power applications. Our core production will remain with untempered solar mirrors.”

The facility is expected to in the future produce thin glass for solar dishes and concentrated photovoltaics, as well as flat mirrors for power tower heliostats and linear Fresnel power plants.

Field tests indicate a breakage rate of 0.027 percent for the company’s untempered solar mirrors. According to information from the company, breakage is not an issue at such low levels.  

Vindico PV+ Keeps Solar Modules Clean
Applied Surface Technologies LLC in Waterloo, Wis., is now distributing in North America the patent-pending Vindico PV+ from Vindico Surface Technologies B.V. The two-stage process combines an anti-reflective coating with a durable, hydrophilic, dirt-repelling coating for use with photovoltaic (PV) glass. The technology has been verified by independent testing to increase watt-peak of PV modules by up to 5 percent.

Since the efficiency of solar energy is dependent upon the amount of sunlight that reaches the PV cells, contamination and reflection from the glass can reduce energy production. By combining an anti-reflective coating with hydrophilic technology, the company reports, energy production can be maximized.

© Copyright 2009 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.