Due to strong demand for its solar modules, Germany’s Sunfilm AG has revealed that it has awarded Applied Materials Inc. a contract for a second Applied SunFab™ Thin Film Line, to be installed next to the company’s first line in Grossroehrsdorf, near Dresden, Germany.

Sunfilm’s first Applied SunFab Line is expected to begin initial production runs this July, with the second line scheduled for start up approximately one year later. This will bring Sunfilm’s annual capacity at the site to over 120MWp.

Back in September 2007, it was announced that Air Liquide had won a 10-year contract to supply Sunfilm with industrial and specialty gases, including nitrogen, hydrogen and helium at its first major thin-film solar plant in Grossrohrsdof.

The contract, for which financial terms were not disclosed, came under Air Liquide’s ALUX turnkey specialty gas solutions for the solar industry that includes the supply and management of provision of nitrogen, hydrogen, silane, NF3 (nitrogen trifluoride) and helium. As part of the deal, the French industrial gases giant would construct a nitrogen on-site production unit and all the facilities required to manage bulk specialty gases containers directly on the site.

Francois Darchis, Senior Vice President in charge of World Business Line Industrial Merchant in Air Liquide, commented in September, “The group’s innovation capabilities allow us to meet the needs of customers using new technologies and to benefit from the booming growth of the solar industry.”

With the new production lines now announced by Sunfilm, the company is setting a new benchmark for the solar industry by manufacturing the world’s first tandem junction, silicon thin film photovoltaic (PV) modules using 5.7m² glass panels. These ultra-large substrates also offer the flexibility to produce finished solar modules of half and quarter size, depending on customer preferences.

Dr. Sven Hansen, Chairman of Sunfilm’s Supervisory Board, explains, “Developing cost-effective solar technology is critical for the future, and we must continue to find new ways to improve module performance in order to make solar energy more affordable for the end users. Our first Applied SunFab Line is making excellent progress towards this goal.”

The annual anticipation for growth in the solar sector lies at around 30%, while according to The Linde Group’s 2007 Annual Report, industry experts expect that from 2012, photovoltaic producers will spend more on gases than flat-screen manufacturers. Furthermore, from 2017 these also appear set to overtake the chip sector.