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Solar Production Technology
Solar Glass is Becoming Cheaper
Glass companies are developing special lines for photovoltaics.
Up to now, glass production, glass refinement and the manufacture of solar modules have been developed separately to one another. Long transportation channels and lots of glass breakages have driven up costs. Integrated factories, in which panes and modules are produced under one roof, should save logistical costs in the future - thus contributing to making photovoltaics more competitive.
Photogallery to the topic Solar Glass is Becoming Cheaper
Smooth is obligatory:show photos
The quality of the glass has a decisive influence on the level of efficiency and costs of solar modules.
(Photo: Signet Solar)
Key equipment:show photos
The demand on mills is increasing as the photovoltaic industry requires more and more glass.
(Photo: Fickert + Winterling)
A coating system applies functional layers to the glass for better light permeability using a vacuum.
Future Factory:show photos
The latest glass productions, such as the F-Glass Factory in Osterweddingen, combine glass production and glass refinement. Costly transportation is consequently unnecessary.
The development of photovoltaic systems, which produce cheaper energy than conventional power stations, is a global objective of researchers and engineers. A new glass production system, specially aligned to the requirements of photovoltaics, is now bringing this objective ever closer. The factory, which should be on offer by no later than 2015, is considerably smaller than the current glassworks with a daily production of 30 to 50 tonnes, thus making it easy to integrate into a module factory. As a result, the transportation costs should be reduced considerably. Long supply channels are still driving up the prices for solar glass. The module manufacturers purchase their ultra-white cover glass and support glass from lines or refinements, which are often many hundreds of kilometres away from their production sites.
The factory is being developed by Fickert + Winterling from Marktredwitz in Upper Franconia and other glass specialists as part of the Solarvis network. Fickert + Winterling is considered to be one of the leading manufacturers of mills. “We believe that an in-house solution could be an interesting solution for module manufacturers,” says development manager Werner Haag. The “Mini Glass Factory” strengthens the hope of sinking solar energy costs. Initially, it does sound like a contradiction in terms to expect cost savings from reduced production - according to the simple economic rule, the larger the output, the cheaper the goods. In special glass production, the largest saving potential is actually in the logistics. Sabine Hönig from the TU Bergakademie Freiberg estimates that three quarters of the costs of solar glass are incurred due to transportation and refinement. In the case of €10 per square metre, for which the material is currently being offered, this is after all almost €7.