Despite a depressed economy, the Linde Gases Division of The Linde Group closed 2009 with more than 6GWp (Gigawatt peak) of production capacity across its global photovoltaic (PV) customer base. Linde also secured multiple new contracts and renewals with thin-film and crystalline manufacturers including GS Solar and Suntech in China; Euro Multivision, Indo Solar and Solar Semiconductor in India; and Bosch, Malibu and Masdar in Germany.
Looking ahead to 2010-11, Linde is focusing on innovation to help PV module manufacturers drive down costs and reduce carbon footprint. The company is collaborating with customers in Asia and Europe to achieve less than $1 per Watt thin-film silicon costs, and is pursuing on-site fluorine generation, silane production and turnkey installations of bulk and specialty gases supply systems.
On the back of stronger demand in Europe, and booming markets in China, India, Italy, Japan, Taiwan and the United States, Linde sees three key trends impacting industry growth during 2010-11:
1. With imminent reductions in feed-in tariffs, the industry will have to deliver technologies that reduce cost/watt.
2. Cost and technology leaders in PV manufacturing will continue to invest in capacity extension despite oversupply.
3. Government stimulus packages will be received with cautious optimism, unless viably disbursed and sustained in the medium term.
“In 2009, the tough got going. While the industry was suffering with over-capacity, Linde took a keen focus on bolstering customer relationships and investing in innovation to address the cost, efficiency and sustainable manufacturing of photovoltaic cells," says Dean O’Connor, head of market development and technology at Linde Gases Division. "Linde’s breakthrough onsite fluorine generation technology has already established a new benchmark for green PV manufacturing.
“With industry experts echoing growth predictions, we see 2010 as the ‘Year of the Agile’ (in the PV industry),” adds O’Connor. “The entire ecosystem of the industry will have to mobilize, and only the nimble manufacturers, suppliers and policy-makers will come out winners.”
In 2009, the company launched The Linde Technology Centre in Shanghai to drive R&D initiatives in China and the Asia-Pacific region to improve gases-related industrial processes and develop green technologies geared toward future and sustainable applications. Linde also has two existing R&D centers in the U.S. and Europe to support those regions.
Linde Gases recently announced an agreement to supply gases for atmospheric research project to assess the effects of climate change on the ozone layer.
The project, named RECONCILE, will be carried out as a series of 10 flight missions between January and March 2010 from the Arena Arctica base, near Kiruna in northern Sweden. RECONCILE and the subsequent analysis of its research data are being carried out by a consortium of 17 partners from nine countries, including the Jülich and Karlsruhe Research Centres in Germany, the University of Cambridge in the U.K., NASA in the U.S., the Norwegian Institute for Air Research and the German Aerospace Centre.
“Linde is delighted to be able to collaborate with the Jülich Research Centre to supply RECONCILE with the quality gases needed for this critical environmental project,” says Nina Schroder, sales manager Specialty Gases, AGA. “As the world works toward trying to reduce greenhouse emissions, detecting and measuring the impact we have on the environment has become vital, and supporting this project is very much in line with one of Linde’s own strategies of reduced environmental impact.”