Despite the downturn another wave of growth is expected in the photovoltaics (PV) sector in 2010, a wave that Air Liquide should be at the crest of after its continued investments in the industry.

In a period of significant consolidation, leading PV manufacturers continue to invest in new capacity to cope with the next phase of demand growth, expected during 2010.

Air Liquide has significantly enhanced its leadership position this year, by signing several new contracts since January 2009 with solar cell manufacturers in five countries and with investment globally of €13m to meet the needs of those customers.

Amongst those customers, Air Liquide became the partner of two of the largest solar science parks in the world, having a production capacity of more than 1,000MW per year each, notably with REC and Suntech.

In Singapore, Air Liquide will supply all carrier and specialty gases as well as on-site services to REC’s new Gigawatt wafer and solar cells production campus. The project is the largest PV investment underway in South-East Asia, with a planned combined production of 1,500MW pa.

Meanwhile in Wuxi, China, Air Liquide signed a contract to supply carrier gases to Suntech’s Gigawatt-size existing facilities. Suntech is the world’s second largest solar cell manufacturer, with a production capacity exceeding 1,000 MW pa.

Francisco Martins, Vice-President World Business Line Electronics of the Air Liquide Group, declared, “We are pleased to be the chosen supplier of the three largest solar cells production campuses in the world. These new signatures with PV market leaders confirm the success of our solar global offer, reinforcing our number one position in a fast-changing industry.”

“The photovoltaic activity is at the crossroads of Energy and the Environment, two growth drivers of the Air Liquide Group.”

The two contracts with REC and Suntech, combined with the existing supply to PV market leader Q-Cells in the biggest production site worldwide in Germany and also in Malaysia, make Air Liquide the number one partner of the three largest production sites in the world.

In parallel, multiple long-term supply contracts have been awarded to Air Liquide by Bosch-Ersol, for its new Thin Film plant in Erfurt (Germany) and by five new solar cell companies in Europe and Asia.