Linde Gases, a division of The Linde Group, today announced a long-term supply contract with Germany’s largest thin-film silicon photovoltaics (PV) module manufacturer, Schüco TF. As part of this, Linde will help Schüco reduce its CO2 emissions by 103,200 tonnes per year.

According to the contract, Linde will deliver on-site fluorine (F2) to its new thin-film module mass production site in Großröhrsdorf, eastern Germany. The expansion of Linde's patented on-site fluorine technology to Schüco TF's second manufacturing facility follows a successful production scale implementation on the 40MW Osterweddingen site since March 2009.

As part of the agreement, Linde will construct the largest electronics F2 production plant in Europe, which will see the complete elimination of the use of nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential 17,200 times greater than carbon dioxide. Accordingly, Linde will help Schüco TF to reduce its emissions by 103,200 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year.

Carl Jackson, Head of Fluorine Business at Linde Gases Division, described the agreement's significance. He said, "Linde and Schüco TF have demonstrated their leadership and foresight in helping the thin-film PV industry to reach a watershed moment. Green energy will only get the green light once the entire supply and manufacturing chain works together to minimise the environmental impact of this sector.”

Prof Dr Stiebig, General Manager for Photovoltaics at Schüco TF was also pleased with the contract: $quot;The benefits of this agreement for us are three-fold: we can reduce the cost and increase the efficiency of the module production facility whilst radically minimising the environmental impact during the manufacturing process of our thin-film solar panels.$quot;

According to a company press statement, Linde has observed an increasing number of customers adopt on-site F2 as a more productive and energy-efficient alternative to NF3 for the cleaning of Plasma Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition (PECVD) chambers for PV and TFT-LCD manufacturing. Linde stated that the change has come about due to concerns over the environmental impact of NF3 and potential legislation that could restrict its use.

It is hoped that on-site F2 technology at Großröhrsdorf will improve solar module production and increase profitability by removing any risk of unabated emissions, reducing non-productive cleaning time and improving throughput. As a result, the carbon payback time – the time it takes the use of solar panels to offset the environmental impact of their manufacture – is reduced by up to one year.