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Going solar

Case study

As the search for alternative and more renewable energy resources intensifies, exploiting what nature gives us in abundance is becoming increasingly important and financially attractive.

The sun is a classic example. Harnessing its power through the use of solar cells and panels is seen by many as being one of the most realistic options for the future. In fact, entire solar power plants directly connected to electricity grids are expected to be built in increasing numbers over the next few years.

What makes these plants more financially viable is the emergence of a new breed of solar cell. Based on glass panels, these so-called thin film cells are coated with a thin conductive layer of zinc oxide (the TCO layer), allowing for mass production of solar panels, which in turn drives down the cost per watt of electricity generated. The amount of (fossil) energy required for production of the panels is also reduced.

AkzoNobel Polymer Chemicals is playing a key role in this fast-growing solar cell market. The business has successfully developed new technology for the production of high purity diethyl zinc, which is used by thin film solar cell manufacturers to create the all-important TCO layer. This new product grade – known as DEZn TCO – is specific to the solar cell industry (which has strict quality standards) and is already being supplied to a growing list of customers worldwide. The company has commercial production capacity at two locations, Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and Texas in the United States – where AkzoNobel’s LaPorte facility is rated with an OSHA VPP Star (in recognition of excellence in occupational safety and health).




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