As a result of sharp increases in fossil fuel prices and the increasing concern concerning the global warming, interest in alternative energy sources is growing. In addition to hydrogen fuel cells, solar energy is sparking increasing interest; the world market for solar energy is expanding by over 30% per year.

In Europe, the demand for solar energy is especially high, particularly in Germany, which has decided to develop renewable energy sources with the aim of exceeding the European Union's requirement to obtain 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. In the coming years, MicroTechpark in Thalheim, north of Leipzig, is expected to become the main European centre for solar cell production. In 2006, 500 new jobs will be created, and eventually the region is expected to provide approximately 5,000 jobs.

With this in mind, Air Liquide has recently become the supplier for the profit of all solar cell manufacturers at the Thalheim site for technical and speciality gases necessary in large volumes for the production of solar cells and modules, with a total investment of almost 2.5 million euros.

For the next 10 years, Air Liquide will supply argon, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen and speciality gases, and fulfill a service agreement. With its global resources and integrated logistical services, Air Liquide will provide the client with its expertise and proficiency in managing the entire gas supply chain by handling all services and activities related to delivering gas directly to the customer and installing the necessary equipment.

François Darchis, Air Liquide Executive Committee member, said about this success: \\$quot;We have met the challenge of complying with the very specific demands of our solar industry clients and have created partnerships within a fast-growing industry. Furthermore, we are very pleased to contribute, by way of our Sustainable Development project, to the boom in solar energy, currently considered an new energy source, clean and inexhaustible.\\$quot;