Home > News > Industry News > Demand for Solar Glass Will Continue to Rise Further

Demand for Solar Glass Will Continue to Rise Further

Post Time:Oct 24,2012Classify:Industry NewsView:425

Even today some 3 to 4% of the glass produced worldwide is used in the solar industry. With average annual growth rates of 20% to 25% this proportion is set to rise consistently. Despite price dumping and excess capacities the prospects for solar glass producers are promising at least in the medium term.

Joachim Schmid, Managing Director of the Construction Equipment and Building Material Machinery Association of VDMA, the German Engineering Federation and speaker of Forum Glass Technology is sure that this will also benefit German machinery and plant manufacturers. There is basically only one possibility for companies to counter the current Chinese market dominance: They simply have to become better than their competitors. Potential for this does exist, said Schmid at glasstec, the leading trade show of the industry held in Düsseldorf from October 23 to 26, 2012. What the producers of PV and also solar thermal systems need first and foremost is thinner and harder glass. In addition to this transmission values must be increased. However, China is also busy working on all of this. Local producers are learning fast, are prone to take risks and therefore also prepared to give new technologies a break.

Higher Transmission through Thinner Wall Thickness
If the wall thickness of solar glass could be reduced from four to two millimetres transmission could be increased by some 0.6%. Assuming 20 to 25 years as an average service life for modules this would translate into a considerable efficiency increase. The float glass currently used for thin-film technology – which accounts for a global market share of approx. 25% within photovoltaics – is currently limited to a thickness of 3.2 millimetres; the reason being that mechanical hardening is not possible. The required thermal process would destroy the coating on the glass. The only possibility for achieving reduced thickness would be chemical hardening. This, however, has scarcely been possible on an industrial scale so far. Companies introducing processes of this kind onto the market would enjoy a tremendous advantage over their competitors. This also applies to thick-film modules. Not least due to the lower silicon price they now are gaining ground again over thin-film modules. Their market share is now already as high as 75%.

Building-integrated photovoltaics also hold a great potential. In this segment especially high growth rates are expected. Even today outside walls of buildings are clad with solar modules rather than bricks. They are more expensive regarding the initial investment but prove to be the cheaper alternative over time. The same holds true for roofs and many other applications. In addition to functionality and efficiency it is above all pleasing aesthetics that are in demand for building-integrated photovoltaics. Modules have to harmoniously blend with the overall look of the building and also fulfil sound-proofing and thermal insulation requirements. This is a challenge not only for photovoltaics but also for solar glass producers. The companies that succeed in rising to this will be among the winners, said Schmid. This also holds true for glass-glass modules. Since they require twice the amount of solar glass these modules will contribute to further boosting demand. Glass Global Consulting GmbH expects the additional demand for solar glass to be as high as 1,200 million square metres for 2020 in the area of c-Si-modules. A huge figure that points to the opportunities opening up here.

The market for solar glass and flat glass, in particular, is highly competitive at present. European producers, in particular, are suffering from considerable price dumping, especially on the part of Chinese manufacturers. The sometimes massive excess capacities existing in China ensure that price trends are only progressing in one direction, namely downwards. Even today approximately 75% of the solar glass processed in the photovoltaics industry worldwide comes from China and the market shares of those producers are seeing continued increases. There are currently about 110 float glass lines operated in China and this means roughly twice as many as in Europe or the USA. To safeguard the highest capacity utilization possible and also to gain market share the Chinese have triggered a global downward price spiral not only on the solar glass market and nobody quite knows where this will end exactly. The prices for solar glass have more than halved in some circumstances. Both European and American producers find it hard to keep up pace with this. Not only their market shares but also their margins are shrinking. The currently existing excess capacities especially in China are expected to be reduced over the next two to three years and the market is suspected to relax again – at least to a certain extent. But prices and, hence margins, can hardly be expected to go up strongly again. To rise to the current and future challenges facing the solar glass industry, it needs not only ideas, innovations and new technologies but above all one factor: Machines and plants capable of putting into practice what the market demands. And here German machinery and plant manufacturers have that special edge. With a share of over 40% they are the uncontested global market and innovation leaders in photovoltaic plant and machinery production

Source: VDMA Glass TechnologyAuthor: shangyi

Hot News