Giving the sun a welcome boost / New solar silicon production

Geschrieben am 28-11-2006

Dusseldorf (ots) -

The Hoffmann family are set up and ready,now that they have fitted
solar modules to their charming cottage in the sun-drenched
countryside of Breisgau.The modules convert the rays of the sun
directly into electricity. “Our roof is now blue, and it is a great
feeling to know that we can have power as and when we need it”, says
Peter Hoffmann, an electrical engineer. The Black Forest is just one
region where photovoltaics are becoming increasingly popular. It was
finally on July 27, 2006, that this regenerative form of energy
demonstrated just how cost-effective it can already be. This was the
day the solar age began,because for the first time solar power was
much cheaper on the Leipzig Energy Exchange than nuclear, gas or coal
power.Prices started to rocket due to the problems with cooling water
that some of the major power stations had been experiencing, and this
combined with the enormous increase in demand due to the hot summer.
Around midday the spot market was in turmoil as the price per
megawatt hour hit 2,000 euros for a short while – up 2,800 percent,
an almost unimaginable increase.

Although what happened this summer was just a one-off, many
experts believe this is the way things are heading in the future. As
supplies of oil, gas and coal become increasingly scarce, costs are
likely to continue to rise in the long run, and that could provide
the opportunity for renewable energies.

- Cross-reference: Picture "Sunny Saxony" is available at
http://www.presseportal.de/galerie.htx?type=obs -

Frost & Sullivan, a market research company, is forecasting a
strong upturn for photovoltaics in particular, a technology that
converts sunlight directly into electricity.Worldwide sales are set
to increase from 6.5 billion dollars to 16.4 billion dollars between
2005 and 2012, an average growth rate of 14 percent – a remarkable
figure. And this is all the more extraordinary since the solar
industry is having to operate under a severe handicap – silicon, the
raw material it depends on the most, is in desperate short supply.

- Cross-reference: Picture "At the reactor head" is available at
http://www.presseportal.de/galerie.htx?type=obs -

Degussa AG (Dusseldorf) looked at the situation and decided
to expand its own trichlorosilane capacities, and to additionally
construct a new monosilane production facility
from the ground up. “We believe these anorganic specialties
have an outstanding future ahead of them”,emphasizes
Dr.Dietmar Wewers, Head of Degussa's Silanes Business Line,
particularly because these special chemical compounds play
an important role in manufacturing solar silicon. So in 2003
Degussa, the world's leading specialty chemicals company,
and SolarWorld AG (Bonn) founded a joint venture company,
Joint Solar Silicon (JSSi, Freiberg), in which Degussa holds a
share of 51 percent. JSSi aims to develop a new kind of manufacturing
process for solar silicon, and to manufacture and
market it. SolarWorld recently took over Shell’s solar operations,
and now ranks as one of the three largest producers
and suppliers of solar technology in the world.

- Cross-reference: Picture "Raw silicon" is available at
http://www.presseportal.de/galerie.htx?type=obs -

Duisburg University and other German universities were also
involved in developing this completely new process. “This innovative
method requires far less energy than the other processes used to date
in the so-called Siemens reactors”, Wewers explains.These are still
the main suppliers for solar silicon worldwide;however, they require
100 to 160 kilowatt hours of electricity per kilogram. And Frank
H.Asbeck, Chairman of SolarWorld, adds one more reason for SolarWorld
to be involved in the innovative process: “We see our entry into
silicon manufacture as a key factor in our further growth”, he says.

Major benefits coming from the Chemieverbund at Rheinfelden

- Cross-reference: Picture "Manufacturing process for solar
silicon" is available at
http://www.presseportal.de/galerie.htx?type=obs -

The groundbreaking ceremony for a new production facility at the
Degussa Rheinfelden site near the Swiss border took place at the end
of August 2006. For several decades now the company has focused its
chlorosilane chemicals production at this site. “The main
intermediary stages of solar silicon production are based on
precisely this chemistry.So Rheinfelden was our first choice. It is a
site where we can intelligently recycle the by-product
tetrachlorosilane directly for the manufacture of silicic acid esters
and pyrogenic silica”, comments Dr.Raymund Sonnenschein,Degussa's
project head and also one of the two managing directors of JSSi.
Degussa sells these products under the brand names Dynasylan® and
AEROSIL®. In the first step trichlorosilane is produced and purified
from metallic raw silicon. This yellowish liquid is then processed in
a subsequent stage into monosilane, a gaseous compound made of the
elements silicon and hydrogen.After additional purification the gas
then is conveyed to a vertical reactor standing approximately ten
meters high.Here in the very hot upper part of the reactor the
monosilane is decomposed to its constituent elements; powdered
silicon is then deposited in the lower, cooled portion of the
reactor. It is then transported by truck to Freiburg, in the state of
Saxony,where it is molten and solidified and finally processed into
wafers and finished solar cells.

- Cross-reference: Picture "Complex engineering - Vertical
reactor" is available at
http://www.presseportal.de/galerie.htx?type=obs -

The prototype of this reactor has been operating at
Rheinfelden since April 2005. “The test runs were extremely
successful”, comments Sonnenschein. Additional parallel reactors
will be built in two years, and the existing facilities will
be integrated into the new construction.This project will result
in available capacities of 850 tonnes of solar silicon per
year starting 2008.Both companies are investing a euro
amount in the upper double-digit millions in the new facilities.

Degussa and SolarWorld have initially agreed on production for 10
years to come. This source of raw material will enable the Bonn-based
company to meet up to 20 percent of its own silicon requirements. And
it will need every gram of silicon it can get,because its subsidiary
company, Deutsche Solar AG (Freiberg, in the state of Saxony), has
entered fixed supplier agreements for a total volume of more than 2.3
billion euros in its books.Around 70 percent of the orders for solar
silicon wafers comes from abroad. “This alone will enable our company
to secure 800 long-term jobs in Germany”, notes Prof.Peter Woditsch,
CEO of Deutsche Solar AG, which is currently expanding production
capacity from 180 to 350 megawatts.

- Cross-reference: Picture "Complex engineering - Filling station"
is available at
http://www.presseportal.de/galerie.htx?type=obs -

Demand for solar silicon continues unabated

Degussa’s initiative is certainly coming at just the right time.
While there was a surplus of around 5,000 tonnes of silicon in 2004,
there will be a shortfall of at least the same amount in 2010. “Even
when calculations take into account all the new factories that have
been announced, there is still a shortage”, Sonnenschein points
out.This makes it all the more important that the transfer of the new
process from the prototype reactor at Duisburg University to the
technical facility at Rheinfelden goes ahead smoothly. “That will
give us the assurance in case one day production needs to be
increased quickly.We can well imagine there could be further
expansions to come”, says Wewers, looking ahead to the future.

- Cross-reference: Picture "How cells generate electricity from
the sun" is available at
http://www.presseportal.de/galerie.htx?type=obs -

So the outlook is particularly bright for solar energy –
especially in the area stretching between the North Sea, the Baltic
Sea and Lake Constance,where 200,000 photovoltaic facilities have
already been fitted on to rooftops. Private financing in this area
totalled 3 billion euros in 2005 alone. “Germany is turning into a
Solar Valley, and is enjoying a great deal of success translating its
technological edge into growing success on the market”, confirms
Carsten König, Managing Director of the German Solar Industry
Federation Solarwirtschaft (BSW,Berlin).Meanwhile the Germans have
even overtaken the “Land of the Rising Sun”, Japan, in terms of
number of systems installed. The shimmering blue surfaces are now
producing more than a billion kilowatt hours of electricity a year.So
it is good to know that the Federal Republic of Germany, a country
that is otherwise rather limited in raw material resources, has the
necessary capacity to produce its own solar silicon,a material that
holds such promise for the future. The Hoffmann family is also
pleased:on some days their roof produces so much power that they can
even sell electricity – although the price tends to be much lower
than at the Leipzig Energy Exchange this summer.

Degussa—a wholly owned subsidiary of the RAG Group—is the global
market leader in specialty chemicals. Our business is creating
essentials—innovative products and system solutions that make
indispensable contributions to our customers’ success. In fiscal 2005
around 44.000 employees world-wide generated sales of 11.8 billion
euros and operating profits (EBIT) of 940 million euros.

Originaltext: Degussa AG
digital press kits: http://presseportal.de/story.htx?firmaid=18754
press kits via RSS: feed://presseportal.de/rss/pm_18754.rss2
ISIN: DE0005421903


Hannelore Gantzer
Corporate Communications
T +49-211-65041-368
F +49-211-65041-527


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