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Gaetan Borgers (Global Industry Director at Dow Corning Solar): "As a supplier of products used throughout the whole value chain of the PV industry"

Interviews > Gaetan Borgers, Global Industry Director at Dow Corning Solar

Gaetan Borgers "As a supplier of products used throughout the whole value chain of the PV industry"

What are the key projections for Dow Corning in India in the current fiscal?

We anticipate significant growth in our business generated by the extraordinary global demand in solar this year, such as the implementation of the National Solar Mission. What are the key features that make silicone an ideal material solution for the photovoltaic industry?

As the global solar industry expands, it is becoming more and more apparent that silicones are an excellent fit for a variety of applications within the PV module assembly market.

Silicone materials provide distinct advantages such as long-term elasticity and superior resistance to ultraviolet radiation and aging. They are highly transparent in the UV-visible wavelength region, which make them a strong fit for cell encapsulants. Silicone can be formulated to have low modulus and be stress relieving while also having excellent adhesion to glass, PV cells and substrates. Silicones can also be employed as PV junction box potting agents because of their excellent electrical insulation properties. When formulated into sealants for frame and junction box sealing, silicones provide long-term bonding and protection against moisture and environmental attack.

At Dow Corning, our goal is to research and develop cost-effective Si-based solutions that enable accelerated penetration of solar energy in the global energy market.

How can encapsulation improve the performance of a module and what is the benefit of silicone in this application?

A great example is the breakthrough solar cell encapsulation technology we announced last year that improves performance and effectively lowers the cost per kilowatt-hour of solar power. The technology was developed at our Solar Application Center in Freeland, Michigan, and will help improve module durability and efficiency, as well as reduce capital and manufacturing costs and significantly increase the production rate of solar panels.

The product, Dow Corning® PV-6100 Cell Encapsulant Series, relies on the UV stability of the silicone molecule to deliver improved durability and increased efficiency for crystalline modules compared to incumbent organics. The PV-6100 Cell Encapsulant Series provides an ultra-transparent layer of protection for the solar cell in a panel and can replace incumbent technologies. The silicon-based material provides higher efficiency, longer module life, and optimum UV resistance. The manufacturing process that features PV-6100 increases manufacturing efficiency and reduces total cost of ownership through lower processing temperatures, faster throughput, as well as lower capital and less factory space needed for the equipment.

What could be the benefit of SoG for the Solar Industry?

At Dow Corning, we believe that the exponential growth of the solar industry will result in several market segments. Each segment will have its own needs, but the Si feedstock will remain the single most important item in the cost structure of a solar module. Dow Corning wants to provide several Si feedstock options to answer the various Industry needs.

Solar Grade Silicon, in particular Upgraded Metallurgical Silicon, can meet the requirements of some market segments and can be an attractive offering in terms of its lower capital costs than polysilicon. Efficiency of the cells is something that needs to be worked on to be competitive. At Dow Corning we continue to invest in R&D to develop a competitive UMG. We are doing that in parallel to our investment in polycrystalline silicon capacities (Hemlock Semiconductor) and in our new monosilane plant.

There are some innovations telling that coating agents can augment the efficiency by considerable percentage. Does Dow Corning have the technology?

Most recently, we tested our frame sealing and rail bonding solutions against two well-known global brands of PV tape and our products outperformed the tapes in cohesive failure and lap shear strength tests.

Our silicone solutions provide module durability and structural strength, greater protection and weatherability, reduced cost of ownership and provide exceptional adhesion to glass and PV substrates.

Where does Dow Corning see itself in India in comparison to other competitors?

Dow Corning has had a dedicated Solar team in India for several years and we have sold to some key Indian manufacturers since the very early days of the Industry. Our close link with the local Industry is helping us to better understand our customer needs. We will continue to quickly add human resources and other capabilities to support the rapid growth of the India market.

With the Indian government giving focus on domestic content, what growth does Dow Corning anticipate in India in the second part of fi rst phase of the Solar Mission?

One of the Dow Corning’s corporate priorities is to expand solar industry demand and build capabilities to meet it. We are very encouraged by the Government of India’s initiatives to create demand in India and we continue to invest in people and resources in India to meet the increased demand for our solar solutions.

With offering a number of solutions to the PV industry, do you have any expansion plan in India particularly in respect of preparing solutions for solar?

As explained earlier, based on the Government’s initiatives, we are making significant investment in people and resources in India. We are well positioned to continue our investments in India as government initiatives start to deliver.
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