GANA Holds Second Solar Symposium
June 23, 2011

Patrick Sargent was one of today’s speakers during the GANA co-sponsored Solar Symposium
About 30 people visiting Baltimore today for this week's ASTM International meetings opted to focus on glass' role in solar power, by participating in a solar glass symposium held jointly with the Glass Association of North America (GANA).

Patrick Sargent of AGC Solar opened today's symposium with a discussion on "what's going on in the solar industry."

As far as where these systems are used, Germany followed by Italy are the top demand markets, followed by North America, but Sargent added that North America is on track to take the lead over those respective countries (versus, he emphasized, Europe as a whole).

Dr. Dino Fenzi spoke about paint systems for solar mirrors during today’s symposium.
Much of the solar growth in Europe has been driven by incentives, but Sargent pointed out the United States may be on the right track in not adopting that. He pointed out that incentives promote a fast demand until suddenly there's more supply then can be absorbed by the market, and incentives are cut. He added that it might be a better track to not have everything come online at once, so manufacturing can keep pace.

Sargent also commented on how price drives demand. He explained that over the recent, unusually cold winter, PV installations stalled. As demand backed up, local supply slowed, although "a country to the west" continued flooding the market with product. The resulting cost drop, Sargent said, may be bad in the short-term for manufacturers, but good in the long-term since driving costs down is key to market growth.

Sargent added that the product being made for solar right now is coming largely from China,  "large problem" for North America. He suggested that pro-solar policies might need to be reconsidered for pro-manufacturing policies. On the other hand, solar is driving job grow in North America. Solar creates more jobs per megawatt than any other energy source, Sargent said. From 2010 to 2011, solar industry-related jobs grew by 26 percent to 126,000.

So how do we take advantage of the industry here today, he asked. Global solar demand is growing from 2009 to 2013 by 191 percent; for North America that forecast is 500 percent. On the other hand, "North America is not keeping up pace for global demand, but China is," he said.

Other speakers today have focused on concentrated solar power (CPV). Dr. Dino Fenzi focused specifically on paint systems for solar mirrors. As Fenzi explained, without durability, the mirror will fail in these applications, investment lost, making it important to guarantee the life of the mirror. On the other hand, Fenzi said, among the foremost goals of the solar industry now is to lower costs to encourage widespread adoption.

Fenzi went on to explain that over the years the mirror industry has likewise focused on reducing costs and creating an extremely efficient process that has led to increasing production of mirror around the world. "But," Fenzi cautioned, "the solar mirror is a different animal."

While mirror manufacturers may meet the standards required to guarantee the life of a mirror in a home, those standards don't come close to meeting the durability required for the CSP mirrors installed in the desert, exposed for decades to the elements. "You must forget what has been considered so far to be a benchmark for mirror," he said.

Fenzi next explained that there are essentially two technologies for mirror production, silver and copper mirrors and copper-free mirrors. The first requires lead in the paint, the second does not. Copper-free mirrors meet EPA regulations, he added, but may not meet the durability and transmission requirements of the solar industry.

Manufacturers, he said, often "try to compromise between good performance and trying to make a solar mirror like a traditional mirror." On the other hand, the solar industry wants the cheapest mirror possible but can't compromise on quality. "There's not the strength to tell the solar mirror market ... [mirror] must be produced at a higher cost and must cost more."

He proceeded to explain how coatings, when applied and processed properly, can protect the mirrors from many common problems.

Jordi Villanueva of Rioglass Solar focused specifically on parabolic troughs and, in particular, the benefits of using tempered glass for solar reflectors. Villanueva walked his audience through the safety benefits of tempered glass, noting the reduced risk of injury during installation and maintenance of these units. During his presentation he reviewed  various tests, including tests for impact, thermal impact and wind, and noted that there are no standards for solar mirrors - yet. "We believe tempered glass should be mandatory," Villanueva concluded.

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