Automating solar cell chemical technology

01 August 2008

A recent site expansion at Evonik Industries will enable the company to triple production of ultra-pure chlorosilanes, raw material used in the production of photovoltaic (PV) silicon.

11-megawatt power plant in Serpa, Portugal
11-megawatt power plant in Serpa, Portugal

Evonik is a chemical, energy and real estate company based in Essen, Germany.

PV silicon is the substance from which solar-grade silicon wafers are made; they are the key components in solar cells and solar power systems. Evonik is the world’s leading supplier of ultra-pure chlorosilanes, and the only company to operate dedicated chlorosilane production sites for the solar energy industry.

The company’s lead site for the production of ultra-pure chlorosilanes is at Bitterfeld in Germany, which is one of the largest chemical parks in Europe.

solar cells are commonly made of silicon
solar cells are commonly made of silicon

When the Bitterfeld plant expansion is completed early in 2009, it will be linked by pipeline to an adjoining factory currently being built by PV Crystalox Solar, the world’s largest manufacturer of multi-crystalline wafers for solar cell modules.

To ensure production reliability and process excellence at the site, Evonik selected ABB to evolve and expand the existing distributed control system into a new plant-wide solution. The solution is based on ABB’s flagship automation platform, Extended Automation System 800xA.

It allows Evonik to evolve its existing ABB Advant open control system to the latest version of System 800xA, and, at the same time, retain existing application programs and AC450 controllers. These will be integrated with new AC800M and AC800M HI (high integrity) controllers. ABB is also providing S900 explosion-proof I/O modules for high-risk production zones.

ABB supplied a similar solution for chlorosilane production to Wacker Chemie in for its production plant in Neunchritz, Germany, and is supplying the power plant automation system for Europe’s largest solar power plant, currently under construction in Spain.

Solar cell technology
Solar cell technology

Image 1 caption: Solar photovoltaic cells convert sunlight into electricity and many solar photovoltaic power stations have been built in Europe, like this 11-megawatt power plant in Serpa, Portugal, 124 kilometers south of Lisbon.

Image 2 Caption: Photovoltaic or solar cells convert sunlight directly into electricity, and are commonly made of silicon (like the blocks shown here), a semiconductor material. When light strikes the cell, it creates a flow of electrons, or an electrical current.

Image 3 caption: Solar cell technology has progressed significantly, and the energy payback time of a modern photovoltaic module is typically from 1 to 4 years.

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