Volume 44, Issue 11 - November 2009


event news
GANA Members Focus on Energy at Fall Conference

“You have to understand how much potential there is in solar,” Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson began during his presentation during the Glass Association of North America’s (GANA) Fall Conference in Kansas City, Mo., in September. Parkinson pointed out that only about 1 percent of energy used in the U.S. right now is from solar. “We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface … so we have tremendous opportunities.”

The governor delivered the keynote speech on the last day of the GANA Fall Conference, during a series of energy seminars co-sponsored by USGlass sister publication, Solar Glazing magazine. Following background on energy usage in this country Parkinson provided some new information on solar energy. He explained that the U.S. now has approximately 1 million megawatts (MW) of power and less than 10,000 MW are from solar energy. He asked his audience rhetorically why that might be.

“The reason is very simple: solar is very expensive.” He noted that, while costs are dropping dramatically, solar energy remains significantly more expensive than traditional forms of energy—and even other forms of renewable energy.

“Here’s the problem,” Parkinson continued. “In order for the cost of solar to decline there has to be a marketplace for solar energy. There have to be places for the folks attempting to innovate to sell their products.”

To build that marketplace, which he predicted would promote further research and development, Parkinson advocated the federal government’s support of solar energy.

“We need some additional engineering breakthroughs … or for some reasons for companies to go out and build solar,” he said. “If in fact we’re going to continue to advance … we’re going to need some help from the federal government. The price point is simply too high for the free market to make it on its own.”

Upon that point Parkinson launched into his advocation for a National Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), which he noted could be among the most important sections contained within the cap-and-trade bill currently waiting to be addressed by the Senate. Kansas already has in place an RES.

Parkinson noted, “Most people watching [the cap-and-trade bill] believe it will not pass the Senate.” If it fails, he added, “We’re encouraging our delegation to work with delegations around the country and revive just the RES portion of the current cap-and-trade bill.”

Parkinson concluded by commenting, “Your industry is extremely well-positioned to look toward the future.”

Following Gov. Parkinson’s presentation, Scott Thomsen of Guardian Glass provided a more in-depth look at the solar market’s impact on the glass industry specifically. He opened with a question he says he hears often from the solar industry: “Why doesn’t the glass industry take solar seriously?” As Thomsen proceeded to explain to his glass industry audience, one reason is that in 2007 less than 0.1 percent of total glass production was for solar glass; forecasts for 2012 predict that global solar glass consumption will grow to 1.1 percent, he added.

However, that’s not to say there’s no future in solar glass. “One of the challenges is how you decide as companies when to invest,” Thomsen said. His presentation provided some cautions in making those decisions.

For example, Thomsen noted that in 2009 solar production actually will retreat due to collapse of subsidies in Spain. He explained that solar demand saw a loss of 2 gigawatts in a few months when Spain capped its subsidies and, as a result, half of the solar pattern lines that existed in Europe have been shut down. In fact, he predicts that this year photovoltaic (PV) cell capacity will outpace demand due to the reduction in Spain’s incentives. Other factors, however, are changing that will slowly begin increasing demand for glass for solar applications.

Globally, he noted that in Dubai buildings of a certain height are now required to feature building integrated PV (BIPV). He also noted that more countries, including Italy, Greece and Portugal, are instating feed-in tariffs, although more conservatively than those that collapsed in Spain.

In addition, Thomsen said that changes in technology likely will increase demand for float glass in these applications. Historically, he explained, 90 percent of PV has been solar pattern glass, as the cost to transition glass types for pattern glass lines is lower than for float lines. In addition, crystalline cells have been the predominant module on the market—and this type of solar cell requires only one glass lite for protection. Now the market is beginning to see a shift to thin film cells as the more efficient solar technology—a technology that requires two lites of glass for encapsulation.

Although this market is growing at a rapid pace, it will still be several years before it becomes a sizable segment of the glass industry. Based on current projections, he predicted that the solar market might meet the demand of the residential or commercial glass markets as soon as 2025.

“The key,” Thomsen said, “is sustaining growth in a controlled manner.”


regulation news
ASTM to Start Solar Glass Subcommittee; Title and Scope Created During a Virtual Meeting
ASTM International held a virtual organization meeting in late September during which participants from both the glass and solar industries came together and voted to form a subcommittee to focus on solar glass. Attendees of the virtual meeting included representatives of the U.S. Department of Energy, ASTM’s E44 committee on solar, geothermal and other energy sources and ASTM’s C14 committee on glass and glass products—approximately 75 in total. During the call, participants voted unanimously to title the ASTM activity/subcommittee “Glass for Solar Applications.”

The group also identified a scope:
The development and maintenance of standards for glass and glass coatings for solar applications that include, but are not limited to, photovoltaic, solar thermal and concentrating applications. The standards will address the characteristics that affect performance, durability and reliability.
The work of this activity will be coordinated with other ASTM Committees and outside organizations having mutual interest.
DOE representative Ed Etzkorn, who worked with ASTM to organize the call, spoke early in the meeting about the goal of the effort.

“Our goal is to accelerate the innovation of solar technology,” he said. “This effort really plays into that.”

The main purpose of the initial meeting also was to design a “blueprint” for the work of the subcommittee, explained ASTM director of development operations Pat Picariello, who led the call.

The group also reviewed an initial overview of what types of work could come out of the subcommittee—and areas that could be addressed, such as photovoltaic applications, glass types used for solar applications, coatings, films, various durability issues and glass used in solar hot water and heating systems.

“You all are going to have the ability to decide what you’re going to do based on what your needs are,” Picariello said.

Though those who participated agreed that a subcommittee will be formed, it is still to be determined whether that subcommittee will fall under the E44 committee’s work or that of C14.

Participants were mixed in their views. One proponent of placing the subcommittee under the work of E44 proposed that solar glass has different requirements than that of architectural glass and that E44 would be better suited to take on these.

“A lot the things that are important for glass that goes into modules are not important for glass that goes into windows,” said the proponent.

Ultimately, Picariello agreed to contact the E44 committee to see if they will accept the solar glass subcommittee to work under their efforts. He also explained that E44 has a broad scope that is more open to encompassing various solar glass standards that might be developed by the subcommittee.

In the coming weeks, the group will finalize its roster, identify officers and begin work.

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