Spurred by government subsidies, domestic sales of solar cells are forecast to double in the current fiscal year to 400-500MW, boosting the country’s total solar output capacity to 2.5GW and supplanting Spain for the No.2 spot globally behind Germany.October 29, 2009 – Spurred by government subsidies, domestic sales of solar cells are forecast to double in the current fiscal year (through March 2010) to 400-500MW, boosting the country’s total solar output capacity to 2.5GW and supplanting Spain for the No.2 spot globally behind Germany, notes the Nikkei daily.
The central government has been offsetting ¥70,000/1kW since January, on top of what local governments have offered since April. Demand also has heated up ahead of an upcoming 100% increase in the price that utilities pay for solar-generated electricity, the paper notes.
Sharp, Kyocera, Sanyo Electric, and Mitsubishi Electric saw domestic shipments roughly double in the past six months (since April), and they’re responding in anticipation that the trend will continue through next spring. Sanyo is ramping to full production at its factory in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, about two months earlier than scheduled; it’s also spending ¥13B to install four production lines (180MW) at a plant in Osaka to be onstream in 2010, notes the paper. Mitsubishi Electric, meanwhile, aims to double output capacity for solar power system control devices starting this month. Honda Soltec is prepping to ramp a solar cell production to full capacity, up from current 50% capacity, equivalent to roughly 27.5MW.
Japanese solar cell producers also are turning more attention to the European consumer market, given the slack in large-scale industrial projects due to the financial turmoil, the Nikkei notes. Mitsubishi Electric, for example, had sold solar panels in Germany and Italy, but expanded to five countries (including the UK) in the past few months and increased local staff by about 50%; it also is selling panels beyond wholesalers to include other equipment installers (e.g. air conditioners). Sanyo, too, is making further inroads into the European residential market, the paper notes.
Despite the tougher market, industrial projects are still key to solar suppliers’ strategies, though. Sharp is “in talks” with Italian utility Enel SpA to locally coproduce thin-film solar cells whose lower costs offset their lower efficiency than what is used by consumers. Kyocera’s exposure to the European market has expanded from its initial presence in Germany to sales offices in Italy, France, and the Czech Republic, with staff nearly doubling to more than 100 by the end of the current fiscal year, the paper notes.