GANA Members Focus on Energy at Fall Conference
“You have to understand how much potential there is in solar,” Kansas
Governor Mark Parkinson began during his presentation during the Glass
Association of North America’s (GANA) Fall Conference in Kansas City,
Mo., in September. Parkinson pointed out that only about 1 percent of
energy used in the U.S. right now is from solar. “We haven’t even begun
to scratch the surface … so we have tremendous opportunities.”
The governor delivered the keynote speech on the last day of the GANA
Fall Conference, during a series of energy seminars co-sponsored by USGlass
sister publication, Solar Glazing magazine. Following background on energy
usage in this country Parkinson provided some new information on solar
energy. He explained that the U.S. now has approximately 1 million megawatts
(MW) of power and less than 10,000 MW are from solar energy. He asked
his audience rhetorically why that might be.
“The reason is very simple: solar is very expensive.” He noted that, while
costs are dropping dramatically, solar energy remains significantly more
expensive than traditional forms of energy—and even other forms of renewable
“Here’s the problem,” Parkinson continued. “In order for the cost of solar
to decline there has to be a marketplace for solar energy. There have
to be places for the folks attempting to innovate to sell their products.”
To build that marketplace, which he predicted would promote further research
and development, Parkinson advocated the federal government’s support
of solar energy.
“We need some additional engineering breakthroughs … or for some reasons
for companies to go out and build solar,” he said. “If in fact we’re going
to continue to advance … we’re going to need some help from the federal
government. The price point is simply too high for the free market to
make it on its own.”
Upon that point Parkinson launched into his advocation for a National
Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), which he noted could be among the
most important sections contained within the cap-and-trade bill currently
waiting to be addressed by the Senate. Kansas already has in place an
Parkinson noted, “Most people watching [the cap-and-trade bill] believe
it will not pass the Senate.” If it fails, he added, “We’re encouraging
our delegation to work with delegations around the country and revive
just the RES portion of the current cap-and-trade bill.”
Parkinson concluded by commenting, “Your industry is extremely well-positioned
to look toward the future.”
Following Gov. Parkinson’s presentation, Scott Thomsen of Guardian Glass
provided a more in-depth look at the solar market’s impact on the glass
industry specifically. He opened with a question he says he hears often
from the solar industry: “Why doesn’t the glass industry take solar seriously?”
As Thomsen proceeded to explain to his glass industry audience, one reason
is that in 2007 less than 0.1 percent of total glass production was for
solar glass; forecasts for 2012 predict that global solar glass consumption
will grow to 1.1 percent, he added.
However, that’s not to say there’s no future in solar glass. “One of the
challenges is how you decide as companies when to invest,” Thomsen said.
His presentation provided some cautions in making those decisions.
For example, Thomsen noted that in 2009 solar production actually will
retreat due to collapse of subsidies in Spain. He explained that solar
demand saw a loss of 2 gigawatts in a few months when Spain capped its
subsidies and, as a result, half of the solar pattern lines that existed
in Europe have been shut down. In fact, he predicts that this year photovoltaic
(PV) cell capacity will outpace demand due to the reduction in Spain’s
incentives. Other factors, however, are changing that will slowly begin
increasing demand for glass for solar applications.
Globally, he noted that in Dubai buildings of a certain height are now
required to feature building integrated PV (BIPV). He also noted that
more countries, including Italy, Greece and Portugal, are instating feed-in
tariffs, although more conservatively than those that collapsed in Spain.
In addition, Thomsen said that changes in technology likely will increase
demand for float glass in these applications. Historically, he explained,
90 percent of PV has been solar pattern glass, as the cost to transition
glass types for pattern glass lines is lower than for float lines. In
addition, crystalline cells have been the predominant module on the market—and
this type of solar cell requires only one glass lite for protection. Now
the market is beginning to see a shift to thin film cells as the more
efficient solar technology—a technology that requires two lites of glass
Although this market is growing at a rapid pace, it will still be several
years before it becomes a sizable segment of the glass industry. Based
on current projections, he predicted that the solar market might meet
the demand of the residential or commercial glass markets as soon as 2025.
“The key,” Thomsen said, “is sustaining growth in a controlled manner.”
ASTM to Start Solar Glass Subcommittee; Title and Scope
Created During a Virtual Meeting
ASTM International held a virtual organization meeting in late September
during which participants from both the glass and solar industries came
together and voted to form a subcommittee to focus on solar glass. Attendees
of the virtual meeting included representatives of the U.S. Department
of Energy, ASTM’s E44 committee on solar, geothermal and other energy
sources and ASTM’s C14 committee on glass and glass products—approximately
75 in total. During the call, participants voted unanimously to title
the ASTM activity/subcommittee “Glass for Solar Applications.”
The group also identified a scope:
The development and maintenance of standards for glass and glass coatings
for solar applications that include, but are not limited to, photovoltaic,
solar thermal and concentrating applications. The standards will address
the characteristics that affect performance, durability and reliability.
The work of this activity will be coordinated with other ASTM Committees
and outside organizations having mutual interest.
DOE representative Ed Etzkorn, who worked with ASTM to organize the call,
spoke early in the meeting about the goal of the effort.
“Our goal is to accelerate the innovation of solar technology,” he said.
“This effort really plays into that.”
The main purpose of the initial meeting also was to design a “blueprint”
for the work of the subcommittee, explained ASTM director of development
operations Pat Picariello, who led the call.
The group also reviewed an initial overview of what types of work could
come out of the subcommittee—and areas that could be addressed, such as
photovoltaic applications, glass types used for solar applications, coatings,
films, various durability issues and glass used in solar hot water and
“You all are going to have the ability to decide what you’re going to
do based on what your needs are,” Picariello said.
Though those who participated agreed that a subcommittee will be formed,
it is still to be determined whether that subcommittee will fall under
the E44 committee’s work or that of C14.
Participants were mixed in their views. One proponent of placing the subcommittee
under the work of E44 proposed that solar glass has different requirements
than that of architectural glass and that E44 would be better suited to
take on these.
“A lot the things that are important for glass that goes into modules
are not important for glass that goes into windows,” said the proponent.
Ultimately, Picariello agreed to contact the E44 committee to see if they
will accept the solar glass subcommittee to work under their efforts.
He also explained that E44 has a broad scope that is more open to encompassing
various solar glass standards that might be developed by the subcommittee.
In the coming weeks, the group will finalize its roster, identify officers
and begin work.
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