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GANA: second solar symposium

The GANA and ASTM International co-sponsored Solar Symposium was held on 23 June. Patrick Sargent, of AGC Solar, opened the symposium with a discussion on what“s going on in the solar industry.

The GANA and ASTM International co-sponsored Solar Symposium was held on 23 June. Patrick Sargent, of AGC Solar, opened the symposium with a discussion on what“s going on in the solar industry. With regards to the use of solar systems, Germany is the top market, followed by Italy, and then North America, but, according to Sargent, North America is on track to take the lead over those respective countries (versus, he emphasized, Europe as a whole). Much of the solar growth in Europe has been driven by incentives, but, said Sargent, the US may be on the right track in not adopting them. In fact, he pointed out, incentives promote a fast demand until suddenly there is more supply then can be absorbed by the market, and incentives are cut. He added that it could be preferable not to have everything come online at once, so manufacturing can keep pace. Sargent also commented on how price drives demand, explaining that over the recent, unusually cold winter, PV installations stalled. When demand decreased, local supply slowed, although a country to the west continued flooding the market with product. The resulting cost drop, Sargent said, could be a problem in the short-term for manufacturers, but positive in the long-term as driving costs down is fundamental for market growth. Sargent added that solar products at present are mainly coming from China, and suggested that pro-solar policies might need to be reconsidered for pro-manufacturing policies. On the other hand, solar is driving job grow in North America, creating more jobs per megawatt than any other energy source, he added. In from 2010 to 2011, solar industry-related jobs increased 26% to 126,000. Global solar demand is expected to grow 191% from 2009 to 2013, with a forecast for North America of 500%. However, North America is not keeping up pace for global demand, but China is, he said. Other speakers focused on concentrated solar power (CPV). Dino Fenzi focused specifically on paint systems for solar mirror, explaining that, without durability, mirror will fail in these applications, investments will be lost, making it important to guarantee the life of mirror. Fenzi said, on the other hand, that one of the foremost goals of the solar industry now is to lower costs to encourage widespread use. Fenzi continued by explaining that over the years the mirror industry has likewise focused on reducing costs and creating an extremely efficient process that has led to increasing production of mirror around the world. But, Fenzi cautioned, the solar mirror is a different animal. Even if mirror manufacturers meet the standards required to guarantee the life of a mirror in a domestic environment, those standards do not come close to meeting the durability required for CSP mirrors installed in the desert, exposed to the elements for decades. You must forget what has been considered so far to be a benchmark for mirror, he said. Fenzi also spoke about the two technologies for mirror production, silver and copper mirrors and copper-free mirrors. The first requires lead in the paint, while the second does not. Copper-free mirrors meet EPA regulations, he added, but, on the other hand, may not meet the durability and transmission requirements of the solar industry. Manufacturers, he said, often try to compromise between good performance and trying to make a solar mirror like a traditional mirror. On the other hand, the solar industry wants the cheapest mirror possible but can“t compromise on quality. There“s not the strength to tell the solar mirror market … [mirror] must be produced at a higher cost and must cost more. He then went on to explain how coatings, when applied and processed properly, can protect the mirrors from many common problems. Jordi Villanueva of Rioglass Solar concentrated on parabolic troughs and, in particular, the benefits of using tempered glass for solar reflectors. Villanueva discussed the safety benefits of tempered glass, highlighting the reduced risk of injury during installation and maintenance of these units. During his presentation he reviewed various tests, including those for impact, thermal impact and wind, and noted that there are no standards for solar mirrors – yet. We believe tempered glass should be mandatory, Villanueva concluded.

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