glasstec Exhibitors Weigh in on the Solar Market
October 24, 2012

by Ellen Rogers, erogers@glass.com

Some companies, such as Grenzebach, offer machinery, equipment and handling lines for solar glass production. Photo: Messe Duesseldorf, Constanze Tillmann

Take a look back at the glasstecs of the past few years and you might just find a noticeable difference in this year's staging.

While the Solarpeq exhibition is still a part of the event, its presence is small compared to the past couple of shows. Some companies serving this market say while the solar segment is still an important one, the demand has dropped over the past few years.

John Fluker, president and CSO of Grenzebach Corp., says his company has spent a lot of time focused on the solar market, as it first got involved back in 2006, providing turnkey plants for solar lines, including material handling, robotics, etc. He said the largest solar market for his company these past few years has indeed been the United States, though it has slowed over the past year-and-a-half to two years.

"There is a large amount of over-capacity in the market," said Fluker. "There are a lot more modules produced than are consumed."

He says one challenge in growing the U.S. market is that everything is regulated state-by-state.
"There is no federal standard to promote the use of solar," he says.

Still, he sees the United States as the second fast growing market for solar panel consumption.
"There are a lot of innovations going on in solar with both U.S. companies and others … lots more R&D is still needed," he adds.

Hegla also offers equipment for solar plants and while Tom Bechill, sales manager with Hegla North America, says there is still a lot of interest in solar and interest is still up, "much of the production has shifted offshore."
William (Bud) Hudgins, sales manager with Bottero, had a similar view, adding that he has not seen much more happening with solar production of late.

"The Chinese are shipping so much in, and for cheaper than it can be processed here," he said. "That market is down now."
Market growth aside, there are also a number of innovative solar displays throughout the glass technology live area. These include one example that incorporates the solar cells with screenprinting on the glass, created to provide architects more design freedom.

glasstec 2012 runs through Friday this week. Watch for more updates, news and reports all week from the show.

This story is an original story by USGlass magazine/USGNN™. Subscribe to USGlass magazine.
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