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Unleashing the power of silicon chemistry for the PV industry

Don Buchalski, senior marketing specialist, Dow Corning Solar Solutions, talks to PES about the advantages silicon-based materials bring to the PV industry and the specific solutions offered by Dow Corning.

PES: Stephanie Burns, Dow Corning’s CEO, has stated that making solar energy economically competitive with traditional energy sources is a corporate priority for your company. Why do you feel Dow Corning is well-suited to help the solar industry reach grid parity?
Don Buchalski: It’s really the combination of two things, technology and focus. Firstly, silicon-based materials have inherent qualities that bring many advantages to the PV industry, and we have built a deep expertise in silicon chemistry over the past 65 years. Secondly, all our efforts are focused on meeting the most critical needs facing the industry: reducing total cost per kilowatt hour, providing a reliable supply of materials to support the industry’s continued growth and improving the durability and performance of photovoltaic modules.

PES: What do you mean by the advantages silicones bring to photovoltaics?

DB: Compared to the incumbent materials used for PV modules, silicones are inherently UV-stable, leading to more durability under extreme weather conditions. Additionally, PV module producers also can eliminate costly UV blockers which in turn leads to silicone materials being much more transparent to all wavelengths of light in the solar spectrum. Silicones actually allow more light to hit the cells within the module, which increases the efficiency.

PES: Tell us, how significant are raw materials in the solar solutions equation?
DB: The whole industry’s goal is to drive down cost per kilowatt hour over the lifetime of a solar panel. Materials are an enormous part of the equation on two fronts: the cost of producing a module and the module’s lifetime performance. In terms of module production, raw materials constitute approximately 70% of a module’s total costs. So what Dow Corning is working on are solutions that allow people to use better raw materials – materials that increase the efficiency of production, and increase the efficiency, durability and long-term performance of the modules. All this adds up to reducing the total cost of ownership

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