Green Products/Applications

Dow Expands Production of Encapsulant for Solar Panels

The Dow Chemical Co. recently announced plans to add capacity for its ENLIGHT™ polyolefin encapsulant films by building two new manufacturing plants in 2012. The new plants, located in Map Ta Phut, Thailand, and Schkopau, Germany, will reportedly more than triple the company’s capacity for making specialty films used in photovoltaic modules, and will significantly expand the company’s ability to supply encapsulant films worldwide.

The ENLIGHT films can help improve the reliability and performance of finished photovoltaic modules, possibly leading to a longer service life. They can also enable fast processing speeds, which may help module manufacturers lower their conversion costs.

“Converting solar energy into an efficient source of electricity is an area of expertise Dow will continue to develop,” said Brij Sinha, global market manager for Photovoltaics, Performance Plastics. “Demand for photovoltaic modules has been growing at about 30% per year, and is expected to continue at this rate for the next several years.”

Paul Curtin, associate technology director for Specialty Films, said the new plant designs will be based on technology used at the initial manufacturing site in Findlay, Ohio, which began production in December 2010.

“The Schkopau facility will become part of one of Dow’s most important sites in Europe,” said Ralf Brinkmann, president of Dow in Germany. “Schkopau also happens to be nestled in the heart of Germany’s ‘solar valley.’” Brinkmann explains that this area is already home to more than a dozen companies that make photovoltaic modules and their components. He estimates that approximately 30-40 new positions will be needed at the site once the new plant is up and running.

“The Map Ta Phut operation will be built with the latest energy efficiency techniques and supports our strategy to further enhance and expand our presence in Thailand,” said Jirasak Singmaneechai, Thailand country manager, who also indicated that 30-35 positions will be added. He also noted that the Thailand site is Dow’s largest manufacturing facility in the Asia-Pacific region, with excellent access to a seaport.

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