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Chemistry brightening the future of solar power

Solar photovoltaic installations are on the rise in the U.S., according to a new report from NPD Solarbuzz. The first half of 2013 saw the installation of more than 1.8 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaic capacity, helping the nation reach the prestigious 10 GW threshold.

“Only Germany, Italy, and China have more installed PV capacity than the U.S. The U.S. is only the fourth country to reach the 10 GW milestone of installed PV capacity,” said NPD Solarbuzz analyst Christopher Sunsong.

Moreover, according to the Solarbuzz report, the industry is expected to grow an additional 80 percent in the next 18 months, helping the U.S. exceed 17 GW of solar PV capacity by the end of 2014.

The chemistry of solar power

Chemistry companies play a vital role in the development of energy innovations such as solar photovoltaics.

One among them, Croda Inc., improves the performance and reduces the size of components in solar panels and solar cells, enabling the creation of solar solutions that are more durable and efficient.

DuPont silicon inks increase the efficiency of solar cells and drive down the cost of solar energy by boosting the amount of electricity produced from sunlight with proprietary high-efficiency solar cell technology.

And solar shingles from Dow Chemical perform like conventional roofing shingles to protect homes while also generating electricity using the clean, renewable energy of the sun. These are just three product examples that can be found on

Enough solar energy to power more than 1.3 million homes

Thanks in part to these and other burgeoning innovations in chemistry, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) recently reported that, in the first quarter of this year, there was a 33 percent increase in overall photovoltaic capacity deployments over the first quarter of 2012, with residential installations growing by 53 percent during that period.

Currently, the U.S. has enough solar electric capacity to power more than 1.3 million average homes, SEIA noted.

Solar power isn’t limited to homes. Buildings around the country are taking advantage of this energy-saving technology. The infamous Fort Knox Army base near Louisville, Kentucky recently announced that up to 2.1 MW of solar power from approximately 10,000 panels – the Army’s largest solar installation – will be online by August.

“The solar panels at Fort Knox will produce over 2.5 million kilowatts hours of energy and will reduce an estimated 6 million pounds of CO₂ annually,” said Johnny Miller, founder and CEO of Earthwell Energy Management, the local company responsible for the design and construction of the installation. “That is equivalent to powering 220 homes or planting 15,000 trees,” Miller added.

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