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Dow Unveils New Solar Material, Could Ease Silicon Shortages

Dow Corning has produced a solar-grade silicon derived from metallurgical silicon that the company said exhibits good solar cell performance characteristics when blended with traditional polysilicon feedstock. In a press release, Dow said the new silicon feedstock material, Dow Corning PV 1101 SoG Silicon, is the first commercially available feedstock produced from large-scale manufacturing processes.

This could ease the shortages of silicon, as reported by Electronic News, that the industry has faced in recent years. Until now, the solar industry has relied on the supply of polycrystalline silicon, but PV 1101, produced from a very different route, could offer a new source of supply.

There are approximately 13,000 to 15,000 tons of high-grade silicon available for 2006 and the demand from solar companies is twice the supply.

For PV 1101 to have an impact on current shortages, it must be distributed quickly, Renewable Energy Access reports. 

But there has been real tangible progress that indicates shortages may resolve themselves in the next few years with or without PV 1101. In August, Renewable Energy Corporation  in Norway began construction of a new polysilicon plant in Washington, which will add about 6,500 metric tons to REC’s current 13,000-metric-ton capacity, Red Herring reports. And Wacker Chemie recently said it would spend $376.7 million to build a new 4,500-metric-ton plant that would bring its total capacity to 14,500 metric tons by the end of 2009.

Last week, the president of solar cell manufacturer Sharp Corp., predicted that the cost of generating solar power will drop 50 percent by 2010.

Dow Corning began bulk production of PV 1101 earlier this summer, and bulk customer shipments began in August. Progressive ramping up of the PV 1101 SoG Silicon production facility, located in Santos Dumont, Brazil, to full speed is currently in progress.

Related Stories:

Sharp: Solar Costs Down 50% by 2010
ErSol Solar, Wacker Chemie Sign Major Silicon Supply Contract

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