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Corning Watch: This is not the year for Photovoltaic glass

Post Time:Feb 20,2012Classify:Industry NewsView:279

When Corning Inc. recently landed its first order for photovoltaic glass, the sale raised hopes that the new product will quickly become a moneymaker for the Twin Tiers' largest employer.


That's not likely to be the case, especially in the short term, because of geopolitical difficulties that will likely disrupt the solar energy market this year.


Photovoltaic glass serves as a base for thin-film semiconductor materials in modules that convert sunlight to electricity.


Corning Inc. says its entry in the market is half as thick as well as 50 percent stronger than the glass usually found in photovoltaic modules. Even more important, the Fortune 500 company says, is that it can increase the efficiency -- the output of electricity --by 20 to 30 percent.


Given those advantages, wouldn't producers of photovoltaic modules be knocking down the doors at Harrodsburg, Ky., where the new specialty glass is produced?


The market for photovoltaic modules grew 40 percent in 2011, but is expected to decline by 6 percent in 2012. Market research firm IHS iSuppli says governments around the world, faced by budget crisis, are expected to slash support for solar projects.


Where are the major users of photovoltaic modules? The two biggest are Italy and Germany, while the U.S. ranks third. China and France are also in the top five.


While 2011 was a year of strong growth, the market began to deteriorate toward the end of the year as prices and profit margins fell.


Those trends are expected to continue in 2012, according to IHS iSuppli.


Corning Inc. did not disclose where its first customer for photovoltaic glass is located. Some of the highest growth areas in 2011 included the United Kingdom, China, India and Bulgaria.


While 2012 looks bleak for the photovoltaic module market, the years beyond that offer more hope.


IHS iSuppli says total installations, which are measured in gigawatts (GW) of electricity generated, reached 25 GW in 2011 and will dip to 23.3 GW in 2012.


Growth in emerging markets, however, could push that total to 61.3 GW by 2016.


Given that scenario, Corning Inc.'s photovoltaic glass might have a hard time establishing a beachhead in 2012. Four or five years down the road, if the market expands as anticipated, the story could be different.

Source: www.stargazette.comAuthor: shangyi

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