Innovative plastics for solar energy

Paul Boughton

The dramatic spike in heating oilgasolineand natural gas prices is bringing to the forefront the need for alternativerenewable energy sources such as solar technology.

Solar energyused both for conversion to electricity (photovoltaics) and to heat water (solar thermal)can serve as the primary or secondary source of energy for homes and businessesoutdoor lightingand many other applications. It offers significant environmental advantages over fossil fuels.

In Germanya leader in solar energy productionusage of solar power – supported by government funding for photovoltaic installations –is expected to jump from 450 MW (million watts) in 2005 to 600 MW in 2007. Europewhere solar energy is the fastest-growing market (at 20 per cent/year)projects an increase from 580 MW to 850 MW over the same period.

More than E20 billion have already been invested in solar energy systems. China is becoming a major manufacturer and exporter of solar devices. The nation’s recent Renewable Energy Law is expected to drive domestic consumption of solar technology as well.

Norway’s Solarnor AS has developed the first high-temperature polymer collector using GE - Plastics’ Noryl EN150SP resin. The company wanted to find a replacement for expensive and cumbersome copper and aluminum for the reservoir in their solar panelscreating a new optimal thermal system. The Solarnor system collects the sun’s energy to heat water that canin turnheat rooms and provide hot water.

Solarnor selected GE’s Noryl resin for maximum performance with minimal environmental impact. Noryl resin’s ability to withstand high water temperaturesplus its excellent hydrolytic stability under constant exposure to watermade this GE product an excellent material of choice for the Solarnor design.

GE’s Noryl EN150SP resin is easily extruded and maintains its shaperigidityand dimensional stability over time. Furtherthe GE material is intended for conformance with strict European Union environmental guidelines.

Compared with metalspolymer systems may be produced at significantly lower cost. Noryl resin’s lower density also offers potential savings in transportation and installation costs. 

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