Spending about 13 billion yen in total, Asahi Glass will establish a new furnace for the cover glass of solar cells (production capacity: 240 tons/day; 7 million m²/year) and an AR coating line at subsidiary AGC Flat Glass (Suzhou) Co., Ltd. (Head office: Suzhou, Jiangsu, China), as well as set up an additional TCO coating line (production capacity: 6 million m²/year) at the Aichi plant (Taketoyo-cho, Chita-gun, Aichi Prefecture). The cover glass production facility is expected to start mass production in the second quarter 2009 and the TCO coating line in the fourth quarter 2008.
In recent years, the world market for photovoltaic power generation has been expanding amid mounting concern over global environment and energy issues. In 2007, photovoltaic power generation is expected to have grown to approximately 3.4 or 3.5GW, more than three times the amount generated in 2004. Such power generation is expected to increase sharply at 40% annually in the years to come. In the current market, crystal silicon solar cells represent the mainstream technology.
However, due to the tightening supply-demand situation of silicon, the primary material, manufacturers are focusing on development and commercialization of various products such as thin film solar cells based on silicon-deposited glass. With regard to crystal silicon solar cells, figured glass, which has template patterns on the surface to reduce reflection of sunlight, is used as cover glass to protect the silicon. Meanwhile, transparent conductive oxide (TCO)-coated glass has begun to be used for thin film solar cells. While strong demand is predicted for both kinds of glass, they are each required to have higher transmission than ordinary architectural glass and to be high-performance and high-quality products that can improve power-generating efficiency.
Asahi Glass already manufactures cover glass for solar cells in the U.S., Belgium and the Philippines. It now plans to establish a furnace and a line of AR coating, which can reduce the reflection of sunlight, in China, where the market is projected to expand rapidly. In order to improve our service, capacity increase is also on-going in Europe through the expansion of processing capacity in Belgium (edge working and tempering). The aim of those projects is to expand production capacity completing our worldwide network and to
differentiate from competitors with higher production capacity and more value added. With regard to TCO glass, Asahi Glass manufactures glass substrates in the U.S. and Thailand, and applies coatings in the U.S. and Japan (Aichi plant). Asahi Glass now aims to substantially raise production capacity of TCO glass through expansion of the TCO coating line at the Aichi plant, and start of TCO production in Europe.