Solar Scandal in Japan is Almost Over

A scandal involving one of the world’s largest solar energy companies is coming to an end.

OSAKA, Japan – Sanyo Solar Industries Co. sold 792 defective solar power systems between November 1996 and March 1998, according to a report filed by the parent company Sanyo Electric Co. The solar panels were fitted with a total of 8,564 low-output cells mixed in with the normal high-output cells, and the units were designed for domestic use. The Ministry of International Trade & Industry (MITI) will order the electrical machinery maker to repay the government subsidies received by its subsidiary for its participation in solar-power generation projects sponsored by two MITI affiliates. The ministry will also suspend for three years the use of Sanyo solar cell systems in projects being undertaken by the New Energy Development Organization, a MITI affiliate. There will also be a three-year ban on the use of the company’s solar cell modules in a research project to examine the effectiveness of solar power systems. Sanyo Electric also says it has punished former executives of the solar subsidiary. Some have had their salaries cut, while others have been suspended from work, said company officials after submitting a final report to MITI on the incident. Thirteen workers were given punishments; company president Sadao Kondo resigned in October to take responsibility for the incident. The report admits that another 48 defective systems were sold to industrial users, in which 1,843 low-output panels were used. The final count of 10,407 systems from a total of 56,551 was 4,931 higher than an interim report released in October. Sanyo has offered free replacement of the low-output panels, and the replacement program is expected to cost 900 million yen. Despite the scandal, Sanyo will not change its plan to raise production capacity of solar cells by eight times from the current level in five years, say officials. Sanyo says it will use the recovered cells for a solar generation system it plans to build in Gifu Prefecture, which it claims will be the largest of its kind in the world.

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