Exclusive interview with Stephan Padlewski, regional marketing manager, DuPont Photovoltaic Solutions, EMEA. DuPont are silver sponsors at Clean Power Africa and African Utility Week.
“The growth potential of solar energy in South Africa and the Sub-Saharan African region requires careful selections of materials that help ensure both high power output and more reliable performance of solar panels over their 25 year lifetime or longer to deliver the returns investors are banking on.“
1) What are you most excited about currently in terms of DuPont’s products and solutions?
As the solar industry enters a new phase of growth to help meet the world’s expanding energy demands, DuPont is collaborating across the value chain to deliver integrated material solutions that can enhance performance, reliability, and consequently, returns on investments (ROI) – because materials matter. That’s why more than half of the world’s 400 million panels installed since 1975 have DuPont materials in them. Making solar power more accessible and affordable has been a goal of DuPont for over 40 years.
DuPont™ Solamet® photovoltaic metallization pastes have nearly doubled solar cell efficiency over the past 12 years, increasing the power output of solar panels. DuPont™ Tedlar® polyvinyl fluoride (PVF) films remain the only backsheet material proven to reliably protect solar panels for more than 25 years, even in extreme outdoor environments. Because these products deliver superior performance in terms of power output and reliable lifetime for panels, they can help improve the return on investment for solar projects, which is key in emerging markets such as South Africa.
The market in South Africa has emerged very rapidly over the last two years and according to market analyst IHS Inc., will reach about 0.5 gigawatts (GW) this year, with an impressive pipeline of very large utility-scale ground-mounted projects that rank amongst the largest in the world. Concurrently, the rooftop market is also expected to grow at the same pace and could account for about 30 percent of the installations in South Africa in 2014.
The rooftop market typically covers small photovoltaic (PV) projects in the residential segment as well as larger installations for commercial rooftop buildings, warehouses, shopping centers, etc. From an installer standpoint, there are some important factors to assess when considering module design and specification. A rooftop solar module typically operates at higher temperatures compared to a ground installation because of poor air ventilation due to reduced air gaps. The difference in operating temperature may be as high as 15 °C. A higher operating temperature induces higher stress and faster fatigue of the module, and can accelerate the deterioration of module components including the backsheet. Typical backsheet degradation modes include cracking and delamination which can result in the loss of electrical insulation of the module, with increased risk of current leakage and electrical arc formation. For rooftop applications, it is therefore critical for module manufacturers to utilize modules with backsheets designed with the highest thermal stability to protect the module at such high operating temperatures. DuPont can offer material recommendations, such as Tedlar® PVF film based backsheet, which has a proven track record of more than 30 years in the field.
Because rooftop projects are frequently space-constrained, project developers typically select the highest module efficiency to maximize power output within the real estate allocated. DuPont™ Solamet® metallization pastes are designed to maximize PV cell efficiency and module power output. The latest Solamet® PV18x series helps enable further power increases over previous generations of metallization pastes. With these materials, DuPont is on track to help enable the industry achieve 22 percent efficiency by 2015. Higher efficiency also helps reduce the total system cost – which is especially important in the rooftop segment. Improving the efficiency by 1 percent can reduce the total system cost by 5 percent, driven primarily by a faster rate of installation, with some manpower cost savings, lower amount of cabling and mounting structures.
2) What is on the calendar for DuPont in 2014?
In 2014, DuPont Photovoltaic Solutions will continue to focus on developing advanced materials that improve the power output and lifetime of solar panels, lowering overall system costs and encouraging faster and broader adoption of solar energy.
We also continue to place heavy focus on helping solar investors, project developers and engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) companies understand the factors most critical to quality in solar panel selection. Materials are critical and those that are proven to deliver superior power output and extend the lifetime of panels will generate increased rates of return for solar projects.
3) What opportunities do you see in South Africa?
The South African government has demonstrated a strong commitment to the development of a greener economy, which can help deliver lower cost energy, encourage job creation, economic development and the establishment of a sustainable local renewable industry.
With the growing demand of electricity in the region and the increasing electricity prices, the renewable energy market looks set to enjoy steady growth over the next 10 years.
The attractiveness of the South African PV market has brought in a large number of European EPCs, which has increased competition and accelerated the penetration of solar in the market.
South Africa also enjoys a sophisticated banking and project finance market, coupled with sound environmental approval processes for projects and support from the national utility provider for the national tendering process.
4) Why did you decide to sponsor at Clean Power Africa?
Market analyst IHS Technology has confirmed that South Africa has taken the limelight as the number one attractive emerging market for solar energy worldwide, with its target of building 8.4 gigawatts of solar installations by 2030, combined with its successful large-scale tendering process in attracting investment to fulfill that goal.
Being present at Clean Power Africa represents a great opportunity to connect and collaborate with regional players, in particular downstream investors, project developers and EPCs.
5) What will be your main message for the event delegate and visitor?
Investors, developers and system owners need to be aware of what materials matter most to a panel’s performance and what to ask for. In today’s market, short-term decisions designed to cut costs by cutting corners on materials can have long-term implications on performance and financial returns. Poor choices in materials can shift more risk to system owners who may experience premature power degradation and decreased system lifetime. Warranties and ‘bankability’ status are not effective to mitigate risks. Specifying proven materials, ensuring quality component design and manufacturing processes are key to help ensure superior power output, long term reliability and maximum financial returns for solar investments.
6) Anything you would like to add?
Please visit our website to learn more about the role of materials in powering solar