Worldwide solar-powered installations are expected to surpass 13,000 MWp in 2010, driven in large part by European market demand. In Southern Europe, this demand in particular should rapidly reach 2,000 MWp per year, with over 20% of this electricity coming from solar power plants and the rest from roof top. Driven by this growing market, power companies are now considering entering the promising solar farms market through joint ventures with thin film solar panel manufacturers.Air Liquide has just signed a major long-term contract with 3Sun to become the sole supplier of gases and services to the new company.3Sun, a manufacturing joint venture using Sharp advanced Triple-junction technology to produce solar panels in Sicily, Italy has recently been established by Enel Green Power, Sharp Corporation and STMicroelectronics NV.
The Catania-based factory will start operations in 2011, with an initial capacity of 160 MWp per year. Yearly output is expected to reach 480 MWp in the next few years. The 3Sun factory will be the second largest Si thin film solar factory in the world after Sharp facility in Japan, and its output will be used by ENEL Green Power and Sharp to serve a large market that extends to Europe, Middle East and Africa.This agreement covers the supply of very large volumes of specialty gases, the pipeline supply of carrier gases and the provision of all related services. Air Liquide will build the entire gas distribution and gas abatement networks on a turnkey basis. In order to meet these needs, Air Liquide will invest in additional hydrogen production capabilities in Sicily and also in the specialty gases supply chain.Air Liquide, which has been present in the photovoltaic Italian market from the beginning by serving key alternative energy customers, becomes with this contract the major player of the country in this sector.
Augustin de Roubin, Vice-President Southern and Eastern Europe of the Air Liquide Group and member of the Executive Committee, commented: “This important contract further strengthens our position in Italy which is already one of the main European countries for Air Liquide.We are honored to be awarded this contract by 3Sun, which reinforces our leadership to each segment of the solar panels manufacturing industry. Air Liquide has been chosen based on the competitiveness of its offer, our leadership position in the silane market, its solar R&D roadmap and our strong presence in the Italian market. The Solar market is at the crossroads of High-Tech, Energy and the Environment, three growth drivers for the Air Liquide Group.”