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Dow plans two new sites for plastic encapsulant films

Dow Chemical Company introduced its Enlight polyolefin encapsulant film technology just one year ago but already demand has grown to the point the company needs new capacity, and globally. As a result, the plastics and chemicals supplier now plans to add capacity for these films in Germany and Thailand to support the extrusion line already running in Findlay, OH.

Once up and running, the film extruded at these sites will more than triple the Company's current capacity for specialty films used in photovoltaic modules (the company does not release these capacity figures). As we reported last year, Dow sees a bright future for polyolefin-based encapsulant films. Compared to traditional ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) encapsulants, its Enlight polyolefin-based product can enhance PV module production efficiencies, for lower conversion costs, while also providing greater module stability and improved electrical performance, claims the company.

The encapsulant films, which are suitable for C-Si and thin-film modules, are also said to improve the reliability and extend the service life of PV technology. Traditionally, thin-film solar cell encapsulation utilizes a vacuum-lamination process between the encapsulating polymer, typically EVA and a second sheet of glass.

Dow (Philadelphia, PA) says the new lines will be installed at its facilities in Map Ta Phut, Thailand, and in Schkopau, Germany, with both to be built in 2012. "Converting solar energy into an efficient source of electricity is an area of expertise Dow will continue to develop," says 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." The Findlay facility began production late last year.

Ralf Brinkmann, president of Dow in Germany, estimates that 30-40 new positions will be needed at the Schkopau site once the Enlight films' line is operational. About 30-35 will be hired in Thailand as well, added Jirasak Singmaneechai, Thailand country manager for Dow.

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