Climate change, specialty glass, PV building integration focus of first day at glasstec

By Sahely Mukerji
October 21, 2008
COMMERCIAL, FABRICATION : MEETINGS AND EVENTS

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Glasstec opened with much fanfare and 1,341 exhibitors at the Dusseldorf Fairgrounds Oct. 21. The show will run through Oct. 25.

The opening ceremony and special show “Glass Technology Live” began with a musical prelude, “Girl from Ipanema,” by Kristalleon, a man dressed in a mirror-encrusted suit and a reflective mask.

Paul Neeteson, president, Federal Association of the German Glass Industry or Bundesverband Glasindustrie – BV Glas and glasstec 2008, spoke next. “Glass is the future,” he said. “The glass manufacturing industry in Germany looks back on a good year in 2007. Last year it posted its strongest growth since the German reunification. Turnover rose by 11.9 percent. Rises in turnover, fortunately, also impacted the number of employees in the industry which rose by 7.2 percent.”

In the first half of 2008, the growth rate of the German glass industry stabilized at a high level without displaying the dynamism of the previous year, Neeteson said. Sales for the entire sector rose to $5.68 billion in the first half of 2008, representing a 1.5 percent compared to the previous year. It is with concern that companies are following the current financial crisis, whose consequences on the global economy, and thus also the glass industry, cannot yet be foreseen.”

The sector is also burdened by the strong increase in raw material and energy prices, and the European Commission’s emissions trading plan. The plan, which if implemented, will lead to additional costs for the glass industry amounting to an estimated $336.7 million in Germany alone, Neeteson said.

Considering rising energy prices, the importance of saving energy and developing alternative energy resources becomes more important, Neeteson said. Photovoltaics and solar thermics are important future markets for glass. Along with other measures promoting climate protection these feature center stage at this year’s glasstec, he said.

An innovative example of glass applications is thin layer modules for photovoltaic units that require less silicon than conventional models or no silicon at all, Neeteson said. Another promising future market is solar thermal power plants. Highly effective multifunctional insulation glass, just as switchable glass and light guiding functional glass, also make for effective energy savings and thereby reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Climate change
Christa Thoben, minister for economic affairs and energy of the state North Rhine-Westphalia, addressed climate protection. “North Rhine-Westphalia is an industrial area, and we have to be in the forefront of climate change and environmental protection,” she said. “We want to be the pacemakers, and we have a dialogue between the environmentalists and the economists.” As an energy-intensive sector, the German glass industry has always been responsible for climate protection, she said. For instance, the German glass industry invests up to $327.5 million annually in the modernisation of its melt tanks. The sector also makes a considerable contribution to climate protection with its products such as insulating glass, thermal insulating materials, modules for photovoltaic units as well as mirrors and receivers for solar thermal power plants.

Performance spectrum of glass
Thanks to the innovative power of glass, the German glass industry is continually developing new products, researching forward-looking areas of application and thereby increasing its opportunities on the world market, Thoben said. Special glass, in particular, with its variable high-tech functions is an example of the extraordinary potential of the enormous versatility of glass. Special surface coatings that, for instance, make glass low reflection, anti-bacterial or dirt repellent, will in future not only be used as architectural glass but also in many other areas of application, she said.  

Building integration
Stefan Behling, professor, Universitat Stuttgart, talked about integrating the solar revolution in architecture. “Companies are manufacturing photovoltaic units but are not working on how to integrate them in architecture,” he said. He presented the Masdar initiative in Abu Dhabi as an example of a successful photovoltaic project.

Thomas Stark, ee-plan Architektur – Technik – Konzepte, Germany, also spoke about integrating PVs in architecture in his presentation "Solar Architecture of the Future." “Is it solar architecture when you simply add solar panels to a project?“ he questioned.

Roland Neuner, sales manager, PV building, Schott Solar GmbH, Germany, presented the Coney Island – Stillwell Avenue station in New York as a case study for sustainable architecture using solar power. To renovate the 86-year-old above-ground station, “we used glass elements as overhead glazing, incorporated solar technology and used thin film solar cells to get the homogenous look and feel,“ he said. It was a $250 million project, of which less than 5 percent was spent on the roof, he said. 

Read more about the opening day.

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