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The Dow Chemical Company : Dow Announces Start Up of New Photovoltaic Film Production Line in Schkopau, Germany

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03/26/2013 | 04:21pm CEST

The ENLIGHT™ Polyolefin Encapsulant Film production line in Schkopau, Germany, has been completed and the first commercial quantities have been shipped to customers. This expansion not only marks a substantial increase in global capacity, but also means that Dow is now able to supply its customers in the photovoltaic industry from within the region in Europe, Asia and the Americas, and ultimately helps customers reduce total system costs and increase global competitiveness.

Since 2010, Dow has tripled its production capacity for photovoltaic film. Shortly after the second photovoltaic film production plant was inaugurated in Map Ta Phut, Thailand, in early 2012, construction of this third production line in Schkopau, Germany began. The energy efficient facility was completed with no recordable injuries or process safety incidents just 10 months later in February 2013. Mark Saurin, PV Platform Development Director at Dow noted, "We continue to be committed to helping our customers reduce costs and address the global demand for solar energy. The adoption of polyolefin technology is gathering pace due to its technical and economic performance benefits. A significant European customer base has requested our local production presence."

Global expansion for a geographic reach

Not only is Dow now able to offer leading technology to its customers, it can also do so efficiently with its production facilities in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. The fact that Dow is able to supply ENLIGHT™ Polyolefin Encapsulant Film from Germany offers European customers increased flexibility, which may reduce lead times, thereby creating possible reductions in necessary working capital. "Having a global production footprint with regional centers can be a key supplier differentiator," Saurin added. The first photovoltaic film production line began production in Findlay, Ohio, in 2010.

"The Schkopau site is based at the heart of the so-called solar valley with proximity to leading photovoltaic companies and research institutes in Central Germany," said Reiner Roghmann, Site Director for Central Germany at Dow. "This and the good conditions at the site offer opportunities for growth in industry relationships." Examples of such collaborations include Dow's involvement in the innovation cluster Solar Kunststoffe, headed by Fraunhofer. Partnering with players along the entire value chain can bring advantages to the entire industry.  For example, linking research facilities may open new markets to plastic producers and solar companies and can stimulate innovations that will help the German solar industry gain a competitive edge in the international marketplace.

Reducing total system costs with ENLIGHT™

Dow's polyolefin chemistry enables encapsulant films to be made with a broad range of optics, moisture barrier and electrical properties, making them well suited for current c-Si solar modules and thin-film applications. "What really sets ENLIGHT™ Polyolefin Encapsulant Film apart from conventional films is that they can increase long-term efficiency of photovoltaic panels, help extend service life, and maintain module reliability, thus helping the industry reduce total system costs," said Mark Bradford, EMEA Product Marketing Manager for Photovoltaic Films at Dow.

ENLIGHT™ films can embed the solar cells under wide temperature ranges, and, unlike conventional films, provide the opportunity to reduce, and potentially eliminate, bubbling under appropriate conditions and application. This can reduce waste and shorten the production time for the module manufacturers by up to 30%. This provides manufacturers with the potential to produce solar systems more efficiently, thereby possibly lowering the consumer prices for solar systems in the long run. Crystalline silicon photovoltaic modules made with these films were also performance tested by TÜV Rheinland in Germany, and showed good performance in all test protocols.

Dow offers a number of commercial grades of ENLIGHT™ films and also develops customer-specific formulations. For more information, visit http://www.dow.com/pvsolar/.

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