DuPont is building new capacity to make polyvinyl fluoride resin as part of a major corporate bet on the future of the photovoltaic market. Capacity to produce Tedlar(R) PVF will be increased by more than 50 percent due to its increasing use to provide long-term durability as a back sheet of solar panels.
While installation of solar cells dipped in 2009 due to the weak economy, suppliers such as DuPont are gearing up for vigorous growth in demand. New installations provided about 5 GW in 2009 and are expected to grow to more than 17 million GW by 2013. Factors driving the growth are a push to reduce reliance on hydrocarbon fuels, the improving efficiencies (and economics) of photovoltaics and government subsidies.
Construction for this phase of the Tedlar capacity expansion has begun for new monomer and resin facilities at DuPont sites in Louisville, KY and Fayetteville, NC, respectively. They are scheduled to open this year.
"This investment supports the significant increase in the global market demand for clean, renewable energy," says David B. Miller, group vice president, DuPont Electronic & Communication Technologies.
DuPont says it expects overall sales of its family of products in the photovoltaic industry to exceed $1 billion by 2012.
PVF films have been an important component of photovoltaic back sheets for more than 25 years because of their strength, weather resistance, ultraviolet resistance and moisture barrier properties. One of the ironies of PVF and most other plastic films used in solar cells, however, is that they are made, at least in part, from hydrocarbon feedstocks - the very material their use is intended to reduce.
As a result, a veritable cottage industry has emerged to develop bio-based materials for photovoltaic applications, particularly back sheets. PLA is being tested for solar cell applications, but a small, start-up company in California has another, potentially more durable, candidate. BioSolar is now producing back sheets using plastics based on cotton cellulosics and castor-oil-based nylons.
To learn more about BioSolar's back sheets, see "Low-Cost Bioplastics Emerge for Solar Cells," at http://designnews.hotims.com/27735-528.