BASF’s Chemical Play In Solar

Posted on August 20th, 2012 by
   

Juron Bradley, Clean Energy Director for BASF, discusses his company’s solar strategy.

Full Transcription:

My name Jurron Bradley and I lead the Clean Energy Focus Team for BASF in North America. For Solar we are involved in many stage of the value chain for the solar. So if we start at the very beginning, I’ll go through some of them. We have wafer cutting fluids. We also have etching and texturizing materials for sales. We also have metal paste and inks. Then if you move down into the cell and modules stage of the value chain we have plastic additives which can be used in encapsulants and back sheet and front sheets. We’re developing some materials, plastic materials to replace metals for framing, mounting also for junction boxes and connectors. Then also, in addition, also more on the PC side if you looked at solar-thermal so specifically concentrated solar power we have salt material. And the great thing about that is with thermal energy storage,  you are able to provide energy, on demand, when you want them most. We also have some concrete additives. So if you looked at it in a large scale utility plant specifically for CSP,  so that’s a lot of concrete, so there’s a need for concrete additives. It’s just a snap shot of some of the things that we have all ready but of course we’re also looking at next generation materials and needs. So we have some brilliant behind the scenes as well.

Two that I would say is pretty exciting, one will be the molten salt material. If you talk to those people that are concentrated in the of solar power space they’re really excited about the benefit of having thermal energy store. So that’s really important. So being able to provide energy even when the sun isn’t shining is a great value proposition. So that’s one thing that’s pretty exciting. Another one would be, it’s really important to be able to protect cells and modules. One protection that is needed is UV protection. So we have very good plastic additives to help them in that regard. So those are the two things that I would call out.

It’s very challenging for number of reason. One it’s a fairly new emerging market so you always have issues with that. Also the issue of having to deal with government policies and subsidies has been such a huge impact on the market. And so if you fall apart it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen to the electron cycle. To really compete in this market you have to understand all those market forces; understanding not only technology changes but also all of those outside external forces like government policy and things like that. So it’s tricky but it’s worth it in the long run.

One thing I would say about BASF is we are a large chemical company and there’s very little on the chemical side that we probably don’t already do and definitely have the capacity to do. We have a lot of bright people, very smart chemical engineers, very smart chemists and other engineers as well. So there are very few problems that we could not possibly solve. And that’s something that you need for this emerging market like solar.

If you are a company like BASF and you want to work with companies in the Solar space you have to really know what companies are going to be here in 5 or 6 years. And so were very active at understanding and honoring the market. We actually have groups that monitor emerging markets; who are  the major players, to know what’s the financial situation, their technology, market dynamics, everything just to make sure that if you’re going to go out and form a JV or do developmental work for someone is going to be beneficial for both parts and will be around for couple of years.

We’re very excited about Solar in North America, both PV but also concentrated solar power as well. That’s one of the go two markets for CSP in the US and we’re really excited about that. It’s definitely a growing market. So 1.8GW in 2011 and we talked to a lot of analysts. This is one of the bright spots for solar and when it comes to demand for actual installations of solar. In terms of that, that’s positive for us to have that here. But at the same time we must keep abreast of what’s happening in terms of government policies again and that is a  major impact on demand.

Just from a personal stand point; I have a, fondness for emerging technologies. My background is chemical engineering. I got a PhD and so we’ll be able to be on next big thing. And technology is really important to me.

 

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