As the demand for solar energy has increased so has the demand for the materials needed in the production of solar or photovoltaic panels.
Once installed, solar panels produce zero emissions as they convert sunlight directly into energy via the photovoltaic effect, bypassing the turbine system found in every other commercial energy source. Azo.com
Some of the better known materials used in solar panel construction are; 1. aluminum for frames 2. copper for wiring 3. silver for soldered connections 4. silicon for energy transmission 4. steel and concrete for support structures.
One of the necessary components of a solar panel that no one thinks about is the sheet of glass on the sun-facing side. This glass is absolutely essential – it adds durability and protection for the semiconductor wafers inside.
The basic raw materials needed for glass manufacturing are silica sand (quartz), soda ash (sodium carbonate) and limestone (calcium carbonate).
Feldspars (K-spar & Na-spar) are also a necessary ingredient in the manufacturing of glass. They are added primarily for their alumina content, which improve hardness, durability and resistance to chemical corrosion. But feldspars are also an important raw material in the manufacture of glass because the alkali content in feldspar acts as a fluxing agent lowering the glass batch melting temperature and thus reducing production costs and energy consumption in the manufacturing processes.
The ceramic and glass industries are the major consumers of feldspar and account for 95% of the total consumption.
“The Global market for feldspar is projected to reach 25.6 million tonnes by 2022, driven primarily by the recovery in the world construction industry and rising demand for glass and ceramic products. Also poised to benefit market growth is steady industrialization in developing markets and the ensuing rise in the use of feldspar in industrial applications where the mineral’s alumina and alkali content are valuable features. The growing global focus on renewable energy especially solar energy is expected to spur consumption of feldspar in the production of solar glass used in solar cells.” Global Industry Analysts. Inc., The Global Feldspar Market
Solar energy innovations are poised to stimulate significant demand in the future adding to already growing demand for solar glass and, hence, the K-spar and Na-spar required in its manufacture.
Rooftops are the obvious place for a solar panel because they receive more direct sunlight than a building’s façade. But because of their sheer square footage, certain building façades can be tapped as sources of solar-power generation – and the windows themselves can be solar generators.
Experts say that, depending on the number of south-facing windows and the building’s location, solar panel tempered glass technology could provide from 20% to 30% of a building’s energy needs.
Tempered Glass Solar Glass Roof Tiles
The tiles have embedded solar photovoltaic cells between multi-layered tempered glass.
Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, has recently made the claim that Solarcity’s new solar roof tiles will be cheaper than a conventional roof even without adding in the value of electricity generated. Your author thinks most readers would agree the value of a Solarcity solar roof (after accounting for available solar incentives), will be closely linked to its ability to generate electricity over a substantial amount of time.
Solar roof tiles transform sunlight into power for your home and of course, your electric car.
U.S. Production lost
Imerys Performance Minerals closed its U.S. feldspar production site in December 2013. The company had previously been supplying 50% of U.S. production of K-spar. Imerys’ lost production, the highest quality K-spar, is being made up by imports of Spanish feldspar at US$400-450 ton landed at Newark, New Jersey or Savannah, Georgia.
This is the Spanish K-spar, at the retail level, which is replacing Imerys’ lost production of their G200 and G200HP products.
Where’s the profit potential?
A friend and colleague, after reading my article up to this point, said:
“Where’s the profit potential? Guys who have industrial materials are almost always private, they make a ton of money, that’s good, but boring because they are private. Every guy with a gravel pit for concrete makes money. But for concrete you need gravel, cement and water, for ceramics and glass you need K and Na spar. They are all private so if you knew gravel and feldspar were $100 billion dollar industries, you can’t invest in them.”
My friend is absolutely correct. Most industrial mineral companies are private and they can make enormous amounts of money. Of course he did not know about…
EnerSpar Corp. (TSX.V:ENER, FSE:5E0)
EnerSpar has acquired the Johan Beetz Feldspar property. The two types of feldspar that are important components of mineralization within the property’s pegmatite host are sodic (Na) feldspar and potassic (K) feldspar.
The property is located in Quebec, on tidewater on the North Shore of the St. Lawrence River and has its own large docking facility. Easy access to the eastern seaboard of North America, where the main distribution points (Newark, New Jersey and Savannah, Georgia) are for imported feldspar, gives a huge transport cost advantage to EnerSpar.
Concrete mill pads, storage and several ancillary buildings from Spar Mica’s previous feldspar mining operation remain at the site – Yes; this is a former producing mine from the 1950’s.
A power transmission line parallels the north shore of the St. Lawrence river. Its closest approach to the property is roughly 4 km from the old Spar Mica plant site.
A suitable workforce and heavy construction equipment is available from Havre-Saint-Pierre (Johan Beetz is 60 km east of Havre St. Pierre).
IMD Project 90221, Report #90221-1 (October, 1989) – Flotation Tests on a Sample of Feldspar Ore
Test #4 observations:
A snippet from the 1989 report says: “Based on Test #4 (of 4 tests in Project 90221) it is evident that a high quality feldspar product can be produced from the submitted sample. The approach taken in Test #4 resulted in good separation efficiencies and product quality.”
“The Johan Beetz grade from the most successful flotation test appears to be reasonably similar to the IMERYS product. It is anticipated that more stringent process testing could improve the Johan Beetz result further.” Technical Report Johan Beetz Feldspar Project, Bill McGuinty P.Geo., July 15th, 2016
The following resource numbers are historic and are non 43-101 compliant. They are not to be relied on to make an investment decision.
High concentrations of alumina, and the alkalis K2O and Na2O, together with low levels of trace elements such as iron oxide define a high quality feldspar product.
K-spar and Na-spar are used in ceramics, glass, tempered glass, PV glass and solar tiles (Tesla is manufacturing it’s solar tiles in Buffalo, New York, just a short sail from EnerSpar’s Johan Beetz project).
By 2040, 34% of worldwide electricity will come from wind and solar and 72% of the $10.2 trillion spent on new power generation worldwide to 2040 will be invested in new wind and solar PV plants.
Investment in renewables across the Americas averages $50 billion per year to 2040, to reach almost $1.5 trillion over 2017-40.
Inside Climate News
EnerSpar Corp (TSX.V:ENER, FSE:5E0) is a brand new, well run, tightly held junior resource company in the industrial minerals space – an extremely rare bird indeed.
Deposits of high quality K-spar that can be economically extracted are few and far between.
Your author believes EnerSpar could produce high quality feldspar products and that EnerSpar’s Johan Beetz property is already an extremely valuable asset.
Currently there is no high quality K-spar or Na-spar production in North America.
That’s got me thinking profit potential. And that my friend is why EnerSpar is on my radar screen. Is it on yours?
If not, maybe it should be.
Richard (Rick) Mills
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Legal Notice / Disclaimer
This document is not and should not be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase or subscribe for any investment.
Richard owns shares of EnerSpar Corp (TSX.V:ENER, FSE:5E0) and ENER is an advertiser on his site.