As part of its solar power growth strategy, Saint-Gobain has announced that its subsidiary Avancis, will be building a new plant to produce photovoltaic (PV) modules to cover the roofs of residential, industrial and commercial buildings as well as solar plants.
This industrial site will be located in Torgau, Germany, where the Group is already present through Saint-Gobain Glass (flat glass and coated glass), Saint-Gobain Sekurit (automotive glass) and Avancis (PV modules).
This new plant will be Avancis' second German facility manufacturing thin-film CIGS (Copper - Indium - Gallium - Selenide) photovoltaic panels. It will be built close to the first Avancis industrial site. The new Avancis plant will have a production output of 100 MWp/year, capable of supplying year after year the electricity needs for cities of 15,000 inhabitants. With a surface area of 25,000msquared, the site should come on stream by the first quarter of 2012.
The innovative technology based on depositing a coating of CIGS on a glass substrate offers a way to avoid traditional crystalline silicon and achieve higher conversion efficiencies than other thin-film technologies (above 12% industrially and up to 20% in the laboratory). It is also efficient at lower light levels, and offers competitive advantages in terms of manufacturing costs. In addition, its aesthetic style is particularly appealing. This technology requires leading-edge expertise when it comes to coating and thermally-treating glass material, two core-competency processes for Saint-Gobain, the world's leading coated glass specialist for the building and automotive industries.
"This project marks a new milestone in Saint-Gobain's commitment to the renewable energy sector. With this plant, Saint-Gobain will boost the industrial development of Avancis and help it become a major reference in the field of high-efficiency thin-film PV modules" explains Jean-Pierre Floris, President of the Innovative Materials Sector and Senior-Vice President of Saint-Gobain. This is an extremely promising technology which combines the low production costs associated with all thin-film based techniques, with efficiencies approaching the higher levels achieved using polycrystalline silicon cells. Whilst being well-adapted for solar fields, the Avancis modules are particularly recommended for roof installation, being simple to mount, stylish and reliable.
PV solar energy has grown at a fast pace, riding on public policy support, though it should soon be developing independently from the latter, considering its intrinsic competitiveness. The nominal power installed today at a global scale is around 10 GW, and this market is expected to grow 20 to 30 % annually between now and 2020. With this investment, Saint-Gobain, world leader in habitat, is taking its share in the soaring solar market and positioning itself as an innovation-driven player.