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Sharp Starts Up New Thin Film Plant

Sharp Solar says that it has started operations at its new thin-film solar cell plant in Sakai City, Osaka, Prefecture, Japan this week. The plant will have 160 MW production capacity during its initial phase; capacity will eventually reach a gigawatt of solar modules each year.

The Sakai manufacturing plant is producing thin-film solar cells and modules using large-size glass substrates measuring 1,000 x 1,400 mm. That is one percent of the silicon used for crystalline solar cells.  This enables lower raw materials costs, simpler manufacturing processes — thereby lowering production costs.

To optimize electricity harvest from different parts of the solar spectrum, thin films can be layered on top of each other to create a more efficient multi-junction product. Sharp’s has the flexibility to produce cells with two or three layers, depending on customer needs.

The worldwide demand for thin-film solar cells, especially for use in large-scale photovoltaic power generation, has been steadily increasing. In a recent report on the thin film market, GTM Research predicts that thin-film will represent 10 GW of capacity by 2012. Sharp is now delivering modules worldwide for multi-megawatt, large-scale utility projects that are best served by a thin-film solar solution.

Sharp is now the second-largest producer of such cells and modules, second to thin-film juggernaut First Solar. The thin-film solar cell plant in Sakai will serve as a model plant for future Sharp thin-film solar cell plants around the world.

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