Solutia Inc. today announced the establishment of its Saflex Photovoltaic business, which serves the rapidly growing market for thin-film solar panels.
"As energy demand and public policy drive the rapid adoption of renewable energy, the global market for thin-film solar panels is growing at a rate of 40% per year," said Jeffry N. Quinn, chairman, president and CEO of Solutia Inc. "Our Saflex business is the world's leading producer of polyvinyl butyral (PVB) interlayer, which is emerging as the encapsulant of choice in the thin-film solar panel market. Within the next 7-10 years, our Saflex business expects to build photovoltaic into a third major market, which will be comparable in size to its traditional architectural and automotive markets."
Luc De Temmerman, senior vice president of Solutia Inc. and president of Saflex, added, "Two key factors position Saflex to be the leading encapsulant supplier to the thin-film solar panel market. The first is technology: our advanced third-generation chemistry and material science is effective and stable for use with coated glass and is proven to be durable in applications where the edges of the laminate are exposed to the elements. The second is capacity: no other interlayer provider is investing in new PVB capacity at the rate of Saflex."
These investments span sites in Belgium, China, Mexico and the United States, significantly increasing capacity for Saflex PVB interlayer (an encapsulant used in thin-film solar panels) as well as Butvar(r) PVB resin (the key raw material used to make Saflex PVB interlayer).
"While the world market for PVB is tight, we expect to sell an increasing amount of Saflex PVB interlayer to photovoltaic customers," said De Temmerman. "Importantly, we will continue to invest in PVB capacity and technology to meet the growing demands of our current and future customers across the architectural, automotive, and photovoltaic markets."
De Temmerman added, "Saflex is energized by this opportunity to become the world leader in a new and rapidly changing market. To do so we are assembling a high-powered team that will build on our current PVB and lamination expertise with top talent from the solar energy and materials industries. We will combine the talent, technology and capacity to deliver a rapid succession of product and process innovations to the fast-moving photovoltaic industry."
Photovoltaic technology, such as thin-film solar panels, converts sunlight into electricity. Many thin-film solar panels are used in large-scale solar farms, which route energy into a local or national electricity grid. Within a thin-film solar panel, the Saflex PVB interlayer is sealed between coated glass, where it protects the electronic components that are contained inside.
"Saflex is developing strong relationships with leading producers of solar module equipment, as well as with downstream manufacturers of thin-film solar panels," said Jay Pyper, global market development director, solar business, Saflex. "These innovators recognize that PVB is becoming the industry's encapsulant of choice as a result of its performance characteristics and scalability. We look forward to growing this market through continued Saflex innovation in the coming years."
Saflex is known globally as the leader in PVB quality and reliability. With more than 80 years of experience, Saflex is the most trusted name in laminated glass technology. As a result, Saflex interlayers are used in nearly 50% of laminated glass for automotive and architectural applications, and are increasingly used in thin-film solar panels.