More than half of the top 10 crystalline-Si solar cell manufacturers, and over 40% of the Thin Film solar cell production fabs worldwide, are now Air Liquide customers.

Despite the current economic crisis, the solar photovoltaic industry (PV) is experiencing a period of significant growth.

In recent months, Air Liquide has won 10 new contracts in Europe, the US and Asia, to supply photovoltaic cell manufacturers, representing 4GWp of new planned capacity.

As part of those long-term agreements, the company will invest over €40m to supply nitrogen and hydrogen from on-site generators, bulk monsilane, other gases, specialty materials and services.

During 2008, its position with Q-Cells SE, the world’s number one solar cell manufacturer, was strengthened and enlarged as it expanded its existing business in the Thalheim Solar Valley Park, where Q-Cells has based six c-Si fabs and three Thin-Film associate companies.

Q-Cells plans to increase its global production capacity from around 800MWp in 2008 to more than 1.3GWp by the end of 2009, news that was welcomed by Air Liquide, which has also agreed to supply all carrier gases and bulk specialty gases to the new Q-cells multi-crystalline plant in Malaysia.

In addition to its contract with Q-Cells, Air Liquide has also expanded its global relationship with REC group, the world number one producer of silicon materials for the solar photovoltaic industry.

The company has signed a long term contract to supply carrier gases to REC’s new polysilicon manufacturing plants in Moses Lake, USA.

It has also been awarded long term contracts by leading solar Thin Film manufacturers Best Solar, in China, and Taiwan’s Sunwell-CMC.

Francisco Martins, Vice-President of Electronics for the Air Liquide Group, said, “These significant achievements with solar industry leaders are a key milestone in Air Liquide strategy, confirming our number one position as the supplier of added value gases and solutions to this industry.