Building a Supply Chain for Renewable EnergyWed, 02/19/2014 - 13:25
Q: In which areas of the renewable energy industry does Dow Chemical see the greatest opportunities?
A: We are currently looking for opportunities within renewable energy, with a stronger focus on wind and solar. Given our presence from the very beginning of the value chain, we have the opportunity to impact several sectors. Solar energy has proven to be easier, since the wind energy supply chain has not developed as quickly as we expected. This is all due to what has been happening with fossil fuels, the prices of which were going up until shale gas rapidly became feasible, changing the price dynamics. This allowed solar panels to become the best solution, though we are still looking at some opportunities in wind power.
Q: What has been Dow Chemical’s contribution to the development of renewable energies and to increasing their competitiveness compared to fossil fuels?
A: It is hard for any company, no matter how big, to compete with fossil fuels and their price dynamic. However, one important element is just how reliable renewable energy is compared to fossil energy. Dow Chemical’s main objective is to provide the technology that will allow renewable resources to become reliable enough to compete with fossil fuels. For wind energy, we have a system and brand revolving around adhesives. We have created strong blades that remain very light, meaning better performance than other products on the market. We also have a specific coating for the painting of wind turbines, which improves their performance when they are exposed to sun, wind and rain. For the solar industry, one of our biggest products is the Enlight Polyolefin PV module encapsulant film, under the Enlight trademark, which helps to both protect the panels and enhance performance.
Q: How does Enlight enhance the durability and performance of solar panels?
A: One of the advantages of Enlight products is that they can be tailor-made. We work together with the manufacturers to find out what their needs are and we make specific products for them. For example, we need to understand the planned lifetime of the panel, so that we can develop the optimal Enlight product. We have solar plants in Thailand and the US, which gives us a global understanding that allows us to zero in on the different needs of different markets, and on how the sun behaves in different parts of the world. This is why the Enlight protective film lasts for as long as is needed, even after being applied just once, when the module is built.
Q: What are some of Dow Chemical’s other flagship products that have become trademarks for the company?
A: For the solar market, we have solar shingles under the Powerhouse trademark. This is a very interesting solution, since it is similar to solar panels for residential applications, except it is shaped like a shingle. The design is unique and aesthetically beautiful when installed on top of a house.
Q: How does Dow Chemical differentiate itself from other component developers operating across the supply chain?
A: We are very competitive within the industry. All our competitors are huge companies with great R&D activities, which is very good as it promotes healthy competition and pushes us to try and make innovations that have the biggest possible impact as quickly as possible. We are constantly finding new global challenges that need to be addressed. Our company is putting a lot of effort into finding solutions to these challenges, which are critical if we are to reach our sustainability goals. We are always thinking about how scientific materials can help, from reducing the weight of packaging to getting the most energy out of solar and wind. At the same time, we are very responsible regarding our operations, and we are optimizing our energy efficiency around the world.
Q: What are the next challenges you will be facing within the renewable energy industry in Mexico?
A: One thing that has strikes me is that people are very eager to say that renewable energy is a booming industry in Mexico and that demand is going to grow, but we need to realize that increasing demand will not directly result in a better supply chain. We still have China and Europe, among other regions, which are not doing well economically and are trying to sell their renewable energy equipment. For example, companies might import components from Europe to produce solar panels in Mexico. This might be an opportunity for Mexico and the entire renewables sector.