Air Liquide is a leading France-based supplier of gases for industry, health and the environment. The group, established as a small company back in1902, offers innovative solutions based on constantly updated and advanced technologies and produces air gases such as oxygen, nitrogen, argon and other rare gases as well as hydrogen. PES talks to Olivier Blachier, Worldwide Business Director, Photovoltaic, about the company’s past, present and future.
PES: Our readers would like to know about current trends in the gas industry, can you give us an outline?
Olivier Blachier: What we have seen over the last few months has been a tremendous expansion of c-Si capacity, with potentially up to 3GWp added to the worldwide capacity between Q3 2009 and Q2 2010 alone. Most of the top tier companies are proceeding with capacity additions which were long-planned, but got approved only once the German market switched to an over-heating mode from July 2009 onward. Suntech is building significant capacity in Shanghai and converting lines to Pluto technologies in Wuxi, Yingli & JA Solar are each adding 500MWp capacity, Trina Solar and Solarfun complementing this trend: the leading Taiwanese players have all announced expansion plans; Sunpower is building a new campus in Malaysia and REC and QCells expanding in South-East Asia.
Japanese manufacturers (Kyocera, Panasonic-Sanyo), by contrast, have been quite careful and are looking at 200-300MWp capacity additions at a time, and gauging it against the potential of Si Thin Film (where Sharp, Kaneka, MHI are actively expanding capacity) or against the first true CIGS production fabs (Show Shell, Honda JV). Also, despite the various announcements made in Germany, Italy, France and the Czech Republic to reduce generous feed-in-tariff rates this year or by next year, the number of new fab projects continue to increase. To respond to this overall trend, Air Liquide is positioning itself to benefit from most of these expansions, further consolidating our market leadership position in supplying carrier gases (Nitrogen, Argon, Helium) and speciality gases (Silane, Ammonia, dopant precursors) to these manufacturers globally.
PES: What are the gases supply infrastructure needs for large-size c-Si solar cells manufacturing campus?
OB: With the increasing evidence of major giga campus being built in China, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore, it is becoming key to establish strategic logistics and on-site Hubs for our PV business, similar to what is occurring throughout the Materials Supply chain for the c-Si industry.