Chemical Giant Plans New Solar Strides

The inauguration this week of a relatively modest solar energy project at a DuPont facility, by contrast, symbolizes a considerably large new effort on the company’s part to tap into the hot solar energy market.

DuPont announced the launch of a solar energy program at its Chestnut Run facilities to further its research in next-generation solar panel technology. This is the tip of the iceberg of what the company says will be a $100 million dollar investment and expansion into the solar energy market. The company has installed three rows of large photovoltaic (PV) solar panels to provide power for an existing R&D and business facility at the site. The system, which can provide enough electricity for eight homes, was installed by WorldWater & Power Corp. The solar panels were made by GE Energy in Newark, Delaware. The system is being equally funded by DuPont and a Green Energy Fund grant from the Delaware Energy Office. “Our primary focus is to lower the energy cost by improving the efficiency and lifetime of solar panels,” Cynthia C. Green, DuPont Fluoroproducts vice president and general manager. “Studying the on-site panels will allow us to do just that, using an installed commercial system. We are also looking for ways to provide better installations with better design capabilities. Our goal is to have something that is ultimately integrated into a system that is lighter weight, easier to install and better integrated with building design.” DuPont is not a household name in the solar PV business, but as a chemical giant the company, in fact, offers a broad range of products for the solar energy market. The principal components of a solar panel include glass, encapsulant, silicon wafers and associated metallization and circuitry, and a protective backsheet. With the exception of the silicon, DuPont provides technological solutions for each component. With better efficiency, DuPont expects that the cost for solar panels will begin to decrease, in turn reducing the cost per watt of power produced for a business or home. While the solar panels are still expensive, the purchase of solar panels guarantees an electricity supply for residential homes for at least 25 years. In addition to three sites in the United States, the company is conducting research on solar energy in the U.K., Switzerland, China and Japan. DuPont has also made a corporate commitment to have at least 10 percent of its power produced by renewable energy sources by 2010, some of which will be supplied through solar panel technology. Today, over 5 percent of its power is produced by renewable energy sources. “This is a great example of our science and innovation providing materials that enable businesses and consumers to convert sunlight directly into electricity,” said Charles O. Holliday, Jr., DuPont chairman and CEO. “Our ‘One DuPont’ offering across businesses provides sustainable business solutions that will give us a competitive advantage in the growing market space of renewable energy technology.”
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