From an article by Barry Adams in the Wisconsin State Journal:

MAZOMANIE — The furnace at Cardinal Solar Technologies on this village’s west side is far from ordinary.

Yes, it heats the 180,000-square-foot building. But the primary purpose of the $5.5 million, 120-foot-long apparatus, which took six months to install, is to harden 2-by-4-foot sheets of quarter-inch-thick glass used to make solar photovoltaic panels.

If projections bear out, it may be a while before the 1,200-degree, gas-fired convection furnace is allowed to cool, as more solar energy installations are built around the world.

“They’re mostly in Europe right now,” said Bob Bond, president of Cardinal ST. “But the United States is coming. I visited one near Las Vegas that will have a million panels sitting in the desert. And that will all be our glass.”

Very little of the energy used in the U.S. comes from the sun. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, petroleum, natural gas and coal accounted for 93 percent of the total in 2008. Renewable energy, which includes hydropower, biomass, geothermal, wind and solar, combined to make up the remainder. Solar energy accounted for just 1 percent.

But that sliver of the market, combined with state and federal incentives, has Cardinal ST officials enthusiastic about the future.