Sanyo Eyes Solar to Compete in Global Market

Sanyo Electric Co. plans to invest more than $350 million in its solar cell business over the next five years, to help meet the world’s growing demand for renewable energy. By bolstering output at its Osaka plant, it plans to increase production capacity of solar cells 60 percent to 260 megawatts (MW) in 2007/2008.

Sanyo hopes to reach 600 MW, accounting for about 15 percent of the global market, by 2010/2011. “We want to join the world’s top three,” said Satoshi Kitaoka, head of Sanyo’s solar unit. Sanyo is the world’s fourth-largest maker of solar cells behind Sharp Corp., Germany’s Q-Cells and Kyocera Corp., and it aims to more than triple sales from the business to 180 billion yen ($1.6 billion) by the year to March 2011. Sanyo estimates that worldwide demand for solar power will more than double to 4 gigawatts by 2010, helped by government subsidies and increased focus on renewable energy sources. Solar is one of the fastest-growing sectors in energy, the release states, but still provides less than 1 percent of the world’s power, partially because it is still costly to produce. The company is working to boost the efficiency of its solar panels while also producing thinner wafers to help cope with a global shortage of silicon, the main active component of solar panels. The company said it would look at forming an alliance for the procurement of silicon but did not give further details. The electronics maker will continue to use single-crystal wafers to produce high-end panels, and also announced it would introduce a new solar cell using less expensive multi-crystal silicon wafers to expand its product lineup and customer base. The cells will be less efficient than those made with single-crystal wafers but are less expensive to produce.
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