Power & Energy Solutions

The premier renewable energy publication

With cost cutting in mind, the photovoltaics industry increasingly relies on automation, expecting it to bring about sustained high product quality and increased productivity. PES explains all.Industrial robots feed and discharge solar cell production lines and sort the finished components by pick-and-place processes. They handle glass panes, cut films and foils and assemble frames around solar modules and have recently even started installing junction boxes. Be it at Q-Cells in Bitterfeld, at Conergy in Frankfurt/Oder or Bosch Solar Energy in Erfurt - most production lines in the solar sector are highly automated these days. And with good reason: "Here in Europe we have to increase capacities to remain competitive," says Carsten Busch, Head of the Solar Unit at ABB Automation in Friedberg, who adds that price pressure is enormous. If we are to keep manufacturing modules in Germany then robots will have to be used for even more tasks in future. "The automotive industry has proven that successful manufacturing is possible here in this country."The solar sector is increasingly interested in manufacturing concepts that have "empowered" the likes of Mercedes, Porsche or BMW. Many manufacturers of automation technology boast precisely this know-how.ABB, for example, offers robots for nearly all segments

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One of the most forward-looking operators within the PV industry, Multi-Contact is nevertheless built upon decades of innovation and experience across a broad sweep of industries. PES caught up with CEO, Rainer Isenrich, who is currently steering the company into previously-untapped global markets.PES: Welcome back to PES. For the benefit of any new readers who perhaps might not be acquainted with Multi-Contact, would you be able to outline how your company benefits the solar industry? Rainer Isenrich: MC has been among the leaders in the PV industry for more than 10 years. We supply global top module companies, system integrators, inverter manufacturers and installers with our MC3 and MC4 connector lines and other products out of our PV portfolio.Founded in Basle, Switzerland, in 1962, Multi-Contact develops and manufactures connector systems for various industries such as power distribution, automation, photovoltaic, medical and test & measurement. In addition to our broad standard product range, we are specialised in designing customised solutions, based on our unique MC Multilam Technology.PES: As a company with many areas of focus, how has your business adapted to demand from the solar industry? RI: PV business has strongly increased over the last years and it now represents an

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PES takes a look at three state-of the-art modes of transport which could help facilitate an energy-efficient future and help conserve the increasingly limited natural resources of the planet.SkiesSome 110 years after the much-celebrated Wright Brothers designed and flew their first aircraft, the age of solar fight has finally arrived.The ghosts of Wilbur and Orville could have looked on in sheer amazement as the Solar Impulse HB-SIA - the first aircraft designed to fly without fuel - left the ground for the first time at Dübendorf Airfield in Germany.The final ground tests, in December 2009, had proved encouraging, showing excellent results for controllability, acceleration, braking paths and, engine power and the team behind the ambitious project gave the thumbs up to test pilot Markus Scherdel, to take the prototype up to take-off speed.As the aircraft gathered speed, project promoters Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg watched on admiringly. After some 350 metres of flight at an altitude of one metre, the prototype landed on the centre of the runway as the team behind the project applauded enthusiastically.Bertrand Piccard, initiator and President of Solar Impulse, said: "For over 10 years I have dreamt of a solar aircraft capable of flying day and

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As CEO of Oerlikon Leybold Vacuum, Dr. Andreas Widl is one of the PV industry's leading lights. Here, he talks to PES about the evolution of the company and the technological advances that have made it a major global player.PES: Welcome to PES magazine, for the benefit of our readers who might not be acquainted with your company, can you outline how you serve the PV industry?Andreas Widl: For the past 160 years the business focus of Leybold Vacuum has been vacuum technology, a prerequisite for most modern manufacturing process. This is also the case for the PV industry. Only 5-10% of total investment is spent on vacuum technology, even though vacuum is the enabling factor in the production chain. Vacuum plays a role in growing silicon ingots, wafer processing, all relevant coating processes and lamination. Application know-how, and the experience of selecting the right vacuum solution and systems for the different applications are crucial for a stable and reliable production as well as essential for secure and profitable processes.PES: You operate in a number of production sectors, can you tell us about the importance of PV to your overall operation and whether this sector is growing?AW: From delivering vacuum

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The UK and European renewable energy sector is currently undergoing a radical transformation, spearheaded by the increasing demand for a secure source of clean, home grown energy. Driven by strong government incentives and advancements in technology, the sector has matured over recent years and the barriers to entry for new investors are receding.In particular, the wind sub-sector has been responsible for the biggest shift in attitudes and the greatest attraction of proactive investment, having demonstrated its simplicity and proven renewable energy technology. These are key factors necessary to unlock project finance and support of the banks. However, the sector has not escaped the lack of confidence that has dogged the global financial markets, which has stifled funding and development.There have been numerous policies implemented by governments across Europe aimed at reversing this trend. In the UK, Ofgem recently highlighted the need for an estimated £200bn of investment in cleantech and renewables over the next 10 years. Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) have been introduced, which provide large utility companies with a quota for sourcing their power from renewables.To address the dilemma of a funding shortfall at the small-scale research and development end of the scale, Feed in Tariffs (FITs) have been

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Since 1995, Prediktor has delivered advanced industrial IT tools and solutions to a wide range of industries, including the PV sector. As CEO Steinar Sælid explains, the company's solutions are based on deep process knowledge and insights into customers' processes and operations.PES: When you were formulating your Manufacturing Execution System (MES) solution back in 2002, you consulted with a number of solar industry members. What was their feedback to you and how did you meet their needs?Steinar Sælid: The feedback we got from industry members generally was that none of the existing MES solutions covered all the specific needs of the PV industry. One of the most important needs was a very strong tracking functionality since most of the product analysis instruments are placed at the end of the production lines. Therefore, to be able to find root causes of breakage or B class products and optimise process, high quality tracking is needed.We therefore enhanced our existing real-time framework to facilitate a tracking database to allow the amount and speed of data needed for tracking every single cell or wafer in a production process and linking each cell or wafer with the correct process data that we log from all

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Adam Grainger, Global Head of Energy and Engineering, Networkers International plcThe renewable energy industry is growing rapidly as are the number of people employed within it. In order to give your business a competitive edge, it is becoming increasingly important to ensure you have appropriately skilled and motivated individuals within your organisation to compete effectively in the global renewable energy market place.With the day to day responsibilities of most hiring managers in the energy industry focussed elsewhere, it can be hard to dedicate the necessary time to recruit staff. If you get it wrong, and you are forced to replace an individual, the costs to your business can be vast. A recent study concluded that the cost of replacing an employee could be anything from 75 percent of the person's salary to an alarming 24 times the person's salary! So how do you go about identifying the right individual first time round?Identify your resource needsBefore hiring a new member of staff it is important that you consider the skills your business will need in order to function properly and complete the tasks at hand. In a growing industry, such as renewable energy it is important to ensure you have the

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In October last year, Hans-Joachim Bender was awarded a German Enterprise Medal ("Wirtschaftsmedaille") in recognition of his corporate merits and achievements as the managing partner of Robert Bürkle GmbH. The Black Forest plant manufacturer is bucking the recent economic trend by introducing new products and innovations and has aggressively opened up the photovoltaic market as a new business sector.PES: Welcome back to PES, for the benefit of our readers who might not be familiar with your company, can you explain how you serve the solar industry? Hans-Joachim Bender: It is good to be back again. The success story began in 2005. That was then year we built the first coating lines for the photovoltaic industry, and two years later we presented the first multi-opening laminator Ypsator for solar modules on the occasion of the EUPVSEC in Valencia.Since then, we have delivered more than 20 lines. However, we were not content with that and have been extending our product portfolio successively since then. For example, with the single-opening laminator e.a.sy-Lam, back ends for thin film modules, handling lines and foil cutting lines.PES: We hear that 2010 is set to be a watershed year for the growth of the company; can you

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