Solar “Panel” Discusses Industry Hype
Russ Ebeid, president of Guardian Industries’ Glass Group, moderated the
“hard-hitting look inside all the talk about solar technologies” during
a solar “panel” that took place during GlassBuild America in early October
(see page 64 for
more). We are “sorting through the hopes, the hype and even the hooey,
about what we in the glass industry can really expect to realize from
solar technology,” Ebeid said.
In talking about what he called an industry “game-changer,” Ebeid pointed
out, “… merely restructuring the current business model will not handle
new consumer-driven innovations. Solar technologies cannot be oversimplified,
like iPhones or Blackberries. But, like those inventions and the companies
that stand behind them, the financial health of a company depends on its
role in creating tomorrow’s market.”
Photovoltaic (PV) glass consultant Steve Coonen urged the glass industry
to create a role for itself in the solar market. “The glass industry has
not taken on this PV challenge in full yet,” Coonen said.
He advised that each level of the industry take a closer look so as not
to be edged out of work by eager solar contractors. “PV glass should be
handled like any other glazing product,” he said.
For example, glazing contractors should take a look at how to integrate
PV projects—at this point more common in canopies than in facades—into
“Glass for solar modules … should be installed by the glazing contractor
who’s already on the jobsite,” Coonen said.
He also encouraged window manufacturers to find ways to work with solar
products, such as finding ways to accommodate wiring inside of mullion
systems. “The glass industry needs to take this electricity and run with
it,” he said.
During the presentation Ebeid also pointed out, “There are a lot of solar
technologies vying for funding and needing to demonstrate cost-effective
proof of performance.”
Scott Thomsen, also of Guardian Industries, provided an overview of the
oft-overlooked concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies because, he
noted, almost 70 percent of the gigawatts (GW) installed in the near future
will be CSP. This technology is used in large-scale utilities and has
the ability to store power, unlike with PV installations. He provided
an overview of the four primary types of CSP, and the challenges of each:
• In the Western U.S., he explained, nearly eight GW of parabolic trough
solar fields are in the pipeline for construction. The challenge with
this technology is that it requires lots of water;
• Central receiver technology, Thomsen cautioned, is similar to PV in
that it has no storage capabilities and so energy must go straight to
• While Fresnel collectors have lower capital costs than other solar technologies,
it has not yet been fully implemented; and
• Dish engine technology, which Thomsen said has high potential, has as
yet to have that potential demonstrated.
Thomsen predicted a “technology shakedown” to occur in the next 3 to 5
years, determining which of these will become “mainstream,” since not
all solar technologies will become cost-efficient. In the meantime, “The
focus should be driving efficiencies up and not driving costs down,” he
Ebeid summarized the expectation that solar grid parity at the utility-scale
level is expected to occur in the next couple of years. “So far in the
U.S., the appetite for solar projects has lagged behind places like Germany
and Spain. Yet reports suggest that we’ll pass Spain next year and Germany
by 2013. Again is this realistic?” he asked. “Is it timely? Meanwhile,
what lessons can we learn from those countries experienced in developing
and implementing solar energy?”
To watch Russ Ebeid’s Solar Minutes video introducing the speakers, visit
the video section of www.solarglazingmag.com.
FLABEG Opens New Solar Mirror Facility in Pittsburgh
FLABEG has opened a new production facility for solar mirrors used to
help generate electricity at large-scale solar power plants. The new manufacturing
facility in Pittsburgh is expected to have an annual capacity to deliver
parabolic curved mirrors up to 450 megawatts (MW) for PT plants. This
production site is equipped to produce both untempered and now tempered
“Our philosophy has undergone no change, nevertheless we want to be fully
prepared for all possible changes in the law,” says Axel Buchholz, FLABEG
chief executive officer, on the extended production range. “We expect
some federal states will introduce standards for safety glass for concentrated
solar power applications. Our core production will remain with untempered
The facility is expected to in the future produce thin glass for solar
dishes and concentrated photovoltaics, as well as flat mirrors for power
tower heliostats and linear Fresnel power plants.
Field tests indicate a breakage rate of 0.027 percent for the company’s
untempered solar mirrors. According to information from the company, breakage
is not an issue at such low levels.
Vindico PV+ Keeps Solar Modules Clean
Applied Surface Technologies LLC in Waterloo, Wis., is now distributing
in North America the patent-pending Vindico PV+ from Vindico Surface Technologies
B.V. The two-stage process combines an anti-reflective coating with a
durable, hydrophilic, dirt-repelling coating for use with photovoltaic
(PV) glass. The technology has been verified by independent testing to
increase watt-peak of PV modules by up to 5 percent.
Since the efficiency of solar energy is dependent upon the amount of sunlight
that reaches the PV cells, contamination and reflection from the glass
can reduce energy production. By combining an anti-reflective coating
with hydrophilic technology, the company reports, energy production can
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