Thursday 25 March 2010

Manufacturing solar panels

Competitive Advantage Through Complete Visibility and Control Over Solar Panel Manufacturing Process

HelioVolt has implemented the GE Intelligent Platforms Proficy® Software suite in its new thin film solar PV module manufacturing plant. The company, based in Texas (US) chose GE’s software to increase plant yield and throughput, while meeting strict control and traceability requirements. With the solution, they will be able to achieve a rapid return on its investment and gain immediate visibility into its manufacturing processes.

HelioVolt is producing thin film solar PV modules for commercial rooftop, utility-scale ground mount, residential, BIPV and custom installations. It is the first thin-film company combining high-efficiency products with low-cost manufacturing capabilities to create a new generation of Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS) based solar modules. Thin film technologies reduce the amount (or mass) of light absorbing material required to create a solar cell. This can lead to reduced processing costs from that of bulk materials.

“Our automated and fully integrated manufacturing process, from substrate to final module assembly and test, allows us to reach high manufacturing efficiencies and low costs more rapidly than other competing technologies,” said Iga Hallberg, Vice President of Business Development for HelioVolt. “The Proficy solution can help us to keep plant yield and throughput high, as well as ensure quality. Ultimately, this will lead to better and more cost-effective solar modules for our customers.”

As a new company, HelioVolt needed a solution that is easily replicated to new plants, but also needed the solution to scale data storage for up to 30 years to satisfy warranty requirements. In addition, high volume manufacturing was a must to drive cost down while maintaining quality.

“HelioVolt had some tight project deadlines to meet to satisfy their investors, so only a turnkey solution supported by rapid implementation services would work for them,” said Erik Udstuen, Vice President of Software and Services for GE Intelligent Platforms. “Proficy offers a complete Lean Manufacturing solution that provides the flexibility to add equipment and optimized work processes as HelioVolt scales its business.”

The software system employed at HelioVolt is made up of five core elements of the Proficy suite providing the company with robust redundancy, enhanced data security, reliable information and increased control of every aspect of operations through access to critical data. By delivering web-based visualization and real-time analytics, operators are able to increase efficiency and optimize production processes in real-time resulting in reduced costs and increased profitability.

“GE’s experience in manufacturing as well as the company’s ability to get a complete system up and running in a short time frame were key to working with HelioVolt,” concluded HelioVolt’s Hallberg. “We are looking forward to a bright future in the solar business and we think this software solution will help us get there.”

More information on GE IP's Solar PV OEM Equipment

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