Dow Corning: Making Solar More Green

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Includes: DWDP, GLW
by: Greentech Media

By Michael Kanellos

Admit it. You've never spent much time thinking about the difference between flourine and nitrogen triflouride.

Solar manufacturers and chip makers have traditionally employed nitrogen triflouride to apply chemical layers in chemical vapor deposition chambers. It's an extremely harmful chemical. Although CVD chambers are vacuums, some gas invariably escapes. Swapping it with flourine reduces greenhouse gas emissions. See more on the video from Intersolar here.

Masdar PV, the solar manufacturer within the Abu Dhabi's Masdar Group, has adopted flourine control systems for its amorphous silicon solar panel lines. The two companies also stated that flourine reduces processing and cleaning time, which in turn reduces the cost of the panels.

There have been a number of interesting announcements in factory chemistry this year. Dow (DOW) Corning (NYSE:GLW), for instance, started selling a silicone encapsulant for solar panels that it says speeds up factory throughput (thereby cutting panel costs) and protects panels better than traditional encapsulants. Small start-up Armageddon Energy, they with the modular solar rack, have also taken out some of the weight from their solar panels by swapping out glass for a flexible film.

Masdar began producing solar panels this summer. It was running two shifts six days a week at its factory, which is capable of producing 65 megawatts of solar panels per year, CEO Rainer Gegenwart told us in October. The plan is to expand the production to 85 megawatts by 2011. The Abu Dhabi factory, at 65 megawatts, could be built in 2010, though that depends on how well the market will have recovered.

The company is shipping panels with 6 percent to 6.6 percent efficiency. The panels make use of a layer of amorphous silicon to convert sunlight into electricity. Next year, it plans to start making panels with two layers of amorphous silicon, and Gegenwart expects the efficiency to fall between 7 percent to 7.8 percent.

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