A global supplier of gases and chemicals, Air Products supplies customers in technology, energy, healthcare, and industrial markets. Crucially, it has adapted to serve the PV sector and boasts a massive portfolio of clients worldwide. PES asked Jeff Handelman, General Manager, Photovoltaics, for his global perspective on the industry.
PES: PV seems to be developing differently in different regions of the world. What is your outlook for North America?
Jeff Handelman: In North America, and especially the US, we are seeing a strong interest in PV, as people continue to investigate alternative energy projects. However, we have not seen the same level of investment as we have in Asia and Europe. I would expect that as credit markets loosen and more of the government stimulus funds make their way into the market; capital investment will pick up. Some recent evidence that points to a strong US market can be seen by the recent announcements by leading crystalline manufacturers about building module assembly facilities. Further upstream manufacturing is sure to follow as the US materialises as a top installation market.
As the leading provider of electronic gases and chemicals in the US, Air Products is uniquely positioned to supply the burgeoning US PV industry. We’ve been supplying crystalline manufacturers for years and are poised to begin supplying thin-film manufacturers as they make the commitment to begin manufacturing in the US.
With key research facilities located at our US based corporate headquarters, we are investing in R&D to drive to a lower cost/watt. An example of our efforts is illustrated by Air Products recently being selected for a $1.5 million grant from the US Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technology Program. The objective of this program is to identify and accelerate the development of PV processes expected to improve the domestic solar market.
We will be focusing on developing and validating an advanced radio frequency plasma chemical vapour deposition process. Once developed and commercialised, manufacturers utilising thin-film silicon processes could see cost savings of roughly $.10 per watt, or more than $500 million annually.
PES: What is the PV business like in Asia?
JH: In Asia, we continue to see crystalline manufacturers expand and the emergence of thin-film technology at the level to begin to take advantage of economies of scale. Familiarity of producers with TFT-LCD technology, established supply chains in places like Taiwan and Korea, strong