ONE OF THOSE press releases that snuck by under the radar answered a year old question about solar panels, would the huge Applied Materials panels live up to their early promise? Based on the recent IEC certification of their 5.7m^2 panels, the answer is yes.
Last July during Semicon, the certification process was all the buzz at the AMAT booth. How would the huge Sunfab photovoltaic (PV) panels fare in real world testing? OK, maybe the answer was pretty well assured, but there are a lot of little glitches that can derail things. Luckily, they didn’t this time.
A similar panel from July 2008
TÜV InterCert had to expand their labs to test these monster panels, 5.7m^2 is about 2.4m on a side. This is a sheet of glass notably larger than a king sided bed (~1.8m * ~2.1m), and notably much bigger than the 1/4 sheet 1.4m^2 panels that AMAT had previously sent in. Think about the logistics involved in handling one of these, much less shaking, bending and abusing them during testing.
These new panels passed all of the torture tests thrown at them, including longevity in high sunlight conditions, high temperatures, wind and rain. The panels have integrated stiffening rails allowing them to also pass earthquake type seismic loading as well. Basically, they are good to go nearly anywhere you want to put them.
If you are thinking of mounting one on your house, don’t stay up for the local door to door AMAT panel salesman, these are designed for utility scale PV installations. AMAT doesn’t sell panels either, their product is called Sunfab, the production line that makes the panels.
Yes, AMAT makes an almost turnkey solar-fab-in-a-box that they will sell you. You give them a large check, and in return, they will help you set up and equip a complete PV solar production line. The idea is to make the panels where they are needed most, creating local high tech jobs and lessening shipping costs and damage in transit. This is the most intelligent way to do things, put the factory output where it is going to be used.
Now that the resultant panels have been shown to pass international certifications, it will be a lot easier to sell utilities on installing them. This will in turn drive demand for more Sunfab lines, meaning AMAT wins, companies setting up lines win, and hopefully the consumer wins via cheaper clean power. The faster more of these Sunfab lines are put in place, the better it will be for everyone.S|A