Major contracts signed worldwide with photovoltaic industry leaders

January 19, 2009

The solar photovoltaic industry (PV) is experiencing a period of significant volume growth despite the current economic crisis. The challenge for industry leaders is to maintain the trend of lowering manufacturing costs and achieve more efficient processes in order to keep pace with the strong pricing pressure. New market leaders are emerging as the industry globalizes and innovation makes inroads through higher-efficiency crystalline-Si (c-Si) cells and new Thin Film technologies. This will help solar cell manufacturers drive towards achieving cost parity with fossil energy sources.

Air Liquide is consolidating its leading position as industrial gases and services supplier to the photovoltaic industry: more than half of the top 10 crystalline-Si solar cell manufacturers, and over 40% of the Thin Film solar cell production fabs worldwide are now Air Liquide customers.

In recent months, Air Liquide has won more than ten new contracts in Europe, the US and Asia, to supply photovoltaic cell manufacturers representing 4GWp of new planned capacity. As part of those new long-term agreements, Air Liquide will invest over €40 million to supply nitrogen and hydrogen from on-site generators, bulk monosilane, other gases, specialty materials and services.

Air Liquide strengthened and enlarged during 2008 its incumbent position with Q-Cells SE, the world number one solar cell manufacturer, by expanding its existing business in the Thalheim Solar Valley Park, Germany, where Q-Cells has based six c-Si fabs and three Thin-Film associate companies. It will also begin the supply of all carrier gases and bulk specialty gases to the new Q-cells multi-crystalline plant in Malaysia. Q-Cells plans to increase its global production capacity from around 800MWp in 2008 to more than 1.3GWp by the end of 2009.

Air Liquide also expanded its global relationship with REC Group, the world number one producer of silicon materials for the solar photovoltaic industry, thanks to a long-term contract to supply carrier gases to REC’s new polysilicon manufacturing plants in Moses Lake, USA.

In Nan’Chang, China, Air Liquide was awarded a major long-term contract by Best Solar, China’s largest solar Thin Film manufacturing project to date, with planned production capacity of 330MWp. Air Liquide will supply specialty gases, delivery equipment as well as meeting installation needs.

In Taiwan, Air Liquide signed a turnkey supply contract with Sunwell-CMC, Taiwan’s largest solar Thin Film manufacturer to date, with current production capacity of 120 MWp.

Francisco Martins, Vice-President Electronics of Air Liquide Group, declared: “These significant achievements with solar industry leaders are a key milestone in Air Liquide strategy, confirming our number one position as the supplier of added-value gases and solutions to this industry. Our leadership in deposition gas technology, as well as our ability to provide photovoltaic customers with a roadmap to reduce Cost per Wp, are key contributors to the solar industry’s drive towards achieving its grid parity objective, which in turn will drive further growth in this market.
In the present difficult economic context, the Group continues to invest in long-term growth drivers, such as the Environment and High Tech.”