Solar Power » Industry

Value Chain Activity: Manufacturing Solar Glass

Photovoltaic modules use solar glass for protection, performance enhancement and as a substrate for thin film modules.

Market Size and Growth

in 2007, 138 million tons of glass were produced. Of this, 50 million tons were flat glass, which is used in solar modules and reflectors. The flat glass market is worth €21bn annually. Some glass is further processed by laminating, tempering, coating and silvering, making this a market of $60bn annually. Growth has generally outpaced real GDP growth, boosted by demand from automotive and construction sectors in China, but also by extending the use of glass to new, innovative applications. The flat glass market alone is predicted to grow by 5% annually.

Solar Glass Market by Application

Solar Glass Market Supply and Demand by Region

Supply & Demand of Flat Glass

There is a regional imbalance between demand and supply for flat glass. While China produces more glass than it consumes, Europe and the Middle East, and to a lesser extent North America are net importers of glass, despite the relative high transport costs for glass.

This imbalance stems probably from the high cost of energy, which is a large part of glass manufacturing, in Europe.

The Solar Glass Segment

Bright clear glass is needed for all photovoltaic applications. The properties of this glass are different from standard glass, requiring specific designs for the plant to cater for higher melting temperatures and prevent contamination by iron particles. Standard glass may be adequate for some thin-film modules, but for all others, solar grade glass is essential.

Yet, Solar Glass accounts for only 0.7% of the flat glass market, even though this share is set to grow to 1.1% by 2012.

Industry Dynamics


Barriers to entry


A production line for float glass requires significant investment. In addition, access to low cost energy is essential. However, due to high transport costs, vicinity to customers is key in the solar market, lowering the barriers for new entrants.

 

Upstream: Non-differentiated supply prices set by market

The input materials are widely available oxides. However, the resources for low iron raw materials needed for ultra bright solar glass are limited and expensive.

 

Conclusion

The solar glass business is very profitable, boosted by growth in the solar market. As traditional companies do not offer a business model that is suitable to PV companies, we will see more new entrants to this competitive market, solely dedicated to solar glass and mirrors.

Competition

Competitors
60% of the world's high quality float glass is produced by four companies: Asahi, NSG Group (Pilkington), Saint Gobain and Guardian. For most glass companies, the solar glass segment is only a very small part of their business. At current production levels, it is difficult for factories to have dedicated solar float lines. Typical glass lines produce a variety of different thicknesses and grades. Requirements of large stock to achieve economies of scale and set-up times make production of solar glass often inefficient.Hence, traditional glass manufactures are more focused on automotive and construction glass.

Product Differentiation
With high transport costs, there is need for "fresh" glass, i.e. glass that is produced in the vicinity of the module manufacturer. Quality differentiation is more important for crystalline silicon modules. Thin-film modules may more likely accept lower grade float glass with competition on price.

 
Wafers
 

Substitution

While there are alternative technologies around for mirrors, the only alternative to ultra-clear solar glass for PV modules is standard construction glass.

 

Downstream

Increasing demand from module manufacturers worldwide puts pressure on the supply of solar glass, which is only a small part of the business of large glass manufacturers.

With high transportation costs for glass, glass production should be close to module manufacturers.

 

Cost StructureSolar Glass Cost Structure

For the production of float glass, energy and raw materials make up more than 70% of the cost of goods sold.

At 30 €/m2, pv-glass is already a substantial cost of a module, especially thin-film modules. In addition, transportation costs can be up to 25% of the total cost for glass. This puts enormous cost pressure on logstics and favours therefore glass manufacturers that are close to their customers.

Hence, despite huge production capabilities in China, that output may be too expensive for solar manufacturers due to transport costs.

Company Details


Name Solar Glass Pureplay? Country Comments
Top 4 Companies      
AGC Solar x Belgium Global glass manufacturer supplying front glass for pv modules as well as mirrors for concentrating devices.
Pilkington   UK Pilkington is the flat glass business of the NSG group. It has developed self-cleaning solar glass.
Saint Gobain Solar   Germany Part of the construction group Saint Gobain, produces solar glass.
Guardian   USA One of the largest glass manufacturers. Has its own "EcoGuard" line including pattern and float glass as well as mirrors for solar applications.
Other Glass Manufacturers      
CentroSolar Group AG x Germany Multi-crystalline cells with efficiency of more than 16%. But not integrated into modules.
Manufacturer of solar glass via its subsidiary Centrosolar Glass.
Guangdong Golden Glass Technologies Ltd   China Guangdong Golden Glass specialises in glass for BIPV modules: flat, curve, exposed frame or frameless.
Guangfeng Solarglass (Hong Kong) Co x China Solar glass pureplay company manufacturing low rion pattern and float glass and mirrors.
Gujarat Borosil Ltd x India Specialty glass manufacturer, produces low-iron solar glass with a light transmission factor of > 91.5%, cut to customer's size requirements.
Hangzhou AMD PV Glass Co Ltd   China Manufacturer of PV front glass, and thermal collector glass. Exclusive supplier to Suntech and Canadian Solar.
Hecker Glastechnik x Germany Manufacturer that specialises in solar glass for PV modules and solar collectors.
Henan Succeed New Energy Material Co   China
Interfloat x Liechtenstein Manufacturer of solar glass - transmission factor 91.8% +/- 0.5%
Jinjing Group Co Ltd   China Jinjing is a manufacturer of front glass for modules and coated glass for bipv application. Has also products outside solar sector.
Naugatuck Glass   USA Naugatuck manufactures thin glass mirrors made of low-iron flat silvered glass mirror that is just 1mm thick. High reflectance factor, but concerns about handling and concerns about durability
Shanghai Flat Glass Co Ltd   China The largest solar glass manufacturer in China - produces flat front glass for modules.
Sunarc Technology A/S x Denmark Sunarc has developed an antireflective glass, achieving glass transmission efficiencies of 95% - 96% compared to 91% average.
Targray Solar   Canada Supplies all raw materials for solar cell / thin film processing. Supplies poly-silicon, but does not produce it. Also manufactures solar glass.
Trakya Cam Sanayii A.S.   Turkey Manufacturer of glass for solar, automotive and construction industries. It serves PV and solar thermal applications.
Reflector Manufacturers      
Alanod-Solar x Germany Reflector Surfaces
Almeco x Italy Produces Vegaflex reflectors for CST power plants
Flabeg   Germany Manufacturer of mirrors for solar and automotive industry. Produces thick, parabolic glass mirrors
Reflectech Inc   USA Reflectech manufactures a mirror film based on polymer film with layer of silver.
Solel x USA Develops and builds solar fields with parabolic troughs. Solel is developing 553MW solar park in Majave Desert, California.
Other      
Saint Gobain Performance Plastics x   A Saint Gobain subsidiary, specialising in lamintes and front sheet materials for solar. For instance, an innovative material to seal the glass to the frame (SolarBond™ Frame Sealant) as an alternative to silicon, or LightSwitch™ for high-performance front-sheets.

 

Downloads: Download list of selected solar glass and mirror producers .

ReferencesAll company information has been obtained from company websites, Reuters and Factiva database.

About | Terms of Use | Sitemap | Contact Us
©2013 Green Rhino Energy Ltd.