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USGNN Original StoryGlass Companies Come to Adapt to Solar Production

As Professor Stefan Behling with the University of Stuttgart, and organizer of the glass technology live exhibit, said during the glasstec opening session on Tuesday, solar glass production is "an integral part of the glass industry." It certainly seems to be that way at this year's glasstec.

As an attendee of solar conferences, Behling said, he's found that the solar module producers don't have a "full grasp" on producing these energy-generating systems and it's the glass industry that has "the know-how to make the machines," and is ultimately tied to the installation of these products.

Behling also noted that solar technologies have been a part of glasstec for a number of years, although not in such force as this year. While some exhibitors admitted to working on solar production equipment for a number of years, it has only become a trend in the months since glasstec 2006.

For example, Benteler has been working on solar-related products for the last year and a half, according to one company representative, so its technology was new for this year's glasstec. It's one of several companies adapting automotive glass equipment to take on grinding, handling and other functions for the sizes most common for solar panels.

Of course, those sizes may not be typical for long. Applied Materials hosts in its booth a 5.7 square meter panel-the size panel that can be produced by its now SunFab™ solar module production line for fabricating thin film silicon photovoltaic modules. A benefit of the large lite, according to one sales representative with the company, is that the glass installer only has to work with one junction box and fewer wires than if he were installing a number of "traditionally" sized PV panels in the same space.

Saflex is another company offering new solar solutions in large sizes; the company launched its photovoltaic business in June 2008 and provides PVB encapsulant technologies for thin film modules as large as 5.7 square meters. As was noted during the company's press conference, Germany is a suitable place for presenting new solar technologies as it's one of the largest users of PV.

"In Germany there's more than a million homes already with the photovoltaics on their rooftop," commented Joris Stoefs, director of commercial operations for Europe, the Americas and Afrida.

Christopher Reed, global photovoltaic business director, noted that Germany and Spain are the biggest markets in this area due to government subsidies. He added that while solar energy has exploded worldwide as a topic, he expects growth in Asia to soon overtake even the use of solar energy in Europe.

CLICK HERE for solar-related video footage.

The show continues through Saturday. Stay tuned to™ for more video footage and stories from the show floor.

Solar panels of all types and size are prevalent in the glass technology live pavilion.


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