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Pilkington United Kingdom - Renewable Energy

Solar Energy - Thins Film Photovoltaics - Crystalline Silicon - Sunplus™ - Optiwhite™

Converting Solar Energy Into Electricity

Over the past few years, legislation has been introduced around the world to address the issue of renewable energy, spurred on by the Kyoto protocol and subsequent national targets. It is increasingly recognized that a move from hydrocarbons is essential as supplies are finite and global warming is a reality.

Solar energy panels offer alternative solutions for a range of energy requirements, from small scale domestic applications to large scale solar power stations, from cloudy northern rooftops to hot sunny deserts. Glass is an integral and important element of these solar panels.

Our wide range of high quality products are used in the three leading solar technologies aimed at converting solar energy into electricity: thin film photovoltaics, crystalline silicon photovoltaics and concentrated solar power applications. In addition to the generation of electricity, our glass products are also used in solar applications that generate hot water.

Thins Film Photovoltaics


Thin film photovoltaic modules produce power at low cost per watt. They are ideal for large scale solar farms, as well as Building Integrated Photovoltaic applications (BIPV). They benefit from generating consistent power, not only at elevated temperatures, but also on cloudy, overcast days and at low sun angles.

For BIPV applications, thin film modules have excellent aesthetics. They also benefit from a relatively small drop in power output under partial shadowing when compared with crystalline silicon modules. This gives thin film modules greater design flexibility when integrated into the building envelope.

Thin film photovoltaic (PV) modules consist of a stack of extremely thin photosensitive layers sandwiched between a top Transparent Conductive Oxide (TCO) coating and a back contact. The photovoltaic layers are laminated between a TCO coated front glass such as NSG TEC™; and a low cost backing material, such as standard or thermally strengthened Pilkington Optifloat™; Clear glass.

There are a number of thin film photovoltaic technologies including amorphous silicon (a-Si), tandem (a-Si/ì-Si) – a combination of amorphous and microcrystalline silicon, cadmium telluride (CdTe), copper indium (gallium) diselenide (CIS, CIGS) and dye-sensitised solar cells (DSSC). a-Si, a-Si/ì-Si, CdTe and DSSC are deposited directly onto NSG TEC™; CIS and CIGS tend to be deposited onto a molybdenum coated glass substrate.

Our Products

NSG TEC™ is a group of products, including a comprehensive range of TCO (Transparent Conductive Oxide) coated glass, optimised to suit a variety of thin films photovoltaic technologies, with different haze and conductivity levels.

All our NSG TEC™ products are manufactured using a patented chemical vapour deposition process to produce a durable, on-line pyrolytic coating that may be heat strengthened or fully tempered, providing complete flexibility for module production.

Each of our products within the range is targeted at a particular thin film photovoltaic technology. For a-Si, a-Si/ì-Si, CdTe and DSSC technologies, properties such as light transmittance, TCO conductivity (sheet resistance) and light trapping (haze) can be optimized to meet individual customer requirements.

Pilkington Optiwhite™ may also be used as a base for TCO deposition, or as a top cover plate for CIS and CIGS thin film PV. Pilkington Optiwhite™ is an ultra clear float glass with a very low iron content, which maximises the solar energy transmittance and, therefore, the efficiency of the module.

Our range of products includes the standard and well established low iron Pilkington Optiwhite™ and its new version, developed especially for the solar industry, Pilkington Optiwhite™ S, which offers even greater solar transmission.

Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics


Developed from the microelectronics technology industry, crystalline silicon (c-Si) is the most widely used solar technology. Due to their high efficiency crystalline silicon modules are best suited to applications where space is at a premium.

There are two types of crystalline silicon modules:

  • Mono-crystalline silicon, produced by slicing wafers from a high-purity single crystal ingot
  • Multi-crystalline silicon, made by sawing a cast block of silicon first into bars and then into wafers

Mono-crystalline modules typically have higher efficiencies than those of multi-crystalline. In crystalline silicon modules, cells are connected together and then laminated under toughened, high transmission glass to produce reliable, weather resistant modules.

Our Products

Pilkington Sunplus™ is a glass specifically developed for use in crystalline silicon modules. This high performance low iron glass has very high solar energy transmittance. When toughened, its strength and durability make it the ideal choice for this application.

Our range of Pilkington Sunplus™ products include:

  • Pilkington Sunplus™ SM: ultra high solar energy transmittance and low light reflectance due to a combination of a prismatic pyramidal pattern on one surface (S), and a matt pattern on the other (M)
  • Pilkington Sunplus™ MM: ultra high solar energy transmittance and low light reflectance due to the matt pattern surfaces on both sides
  • Pilkington Sunplus™ SM AR: ultra high solar energy transmittance with Anti-Reflective properties due to the application of an AR coating, designed and optimised for crystalline silicon technologies.

Pilkington Sunplus™ is used extensively for the cover glass in crystalline silicon solar modules. Where there is a need to match other building components, toughened Pilkington Optiwhite™ can be used as an alternative cover plate.

Concentrated Solar Power Technology

Concentrated solar power technology uses mirrors to concentrate sunlight. The concentrated sunlight can either be directed onto a heat transfer material which generates electricity through a turbine, or onto a very high performance photovoltaic cell, which converts it into electricity. Concentrator systems require direct sunlight and they generally follow the sun's path during the day through an axis tracking system.

Typical examples are parabolic troughs and heliostat power towers. The high performance mirrors are manufactured using metallic reflective coatings and weather protective paints deposited onto very high performance low iron float glass.

Click the PDF image to view the technical information in full

Renewable Energy

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Pilkington United Kingdom Ltd
Greengate Works
Sherdley Road
St Helens

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Tel: 01744 28882

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