Sharp Lightens Solar Business, Shifts Focus to Energy Storage Systems

Sharp Corp., the Japanese company that stopped making solar panels in the U.S. and the U.K., is betting power users in the U.S. will benefit from a device to store energy and control demand when it’s needed the most.

The Osaka-based company introduced an energy management system for industrial and commercial buildings last month in California where electricity bills are calculated based on peak usage and the amount of electricity actually consumed, according to Takashi Fukushima, who heads the New Business Development Center at Sharp.

The product, called SmartStorage, can cut the amount of electricity billed at the highest capacity required because it forecasts power usage patterns in order to manage so-called peak demand, Fukushima said in an interview in Tokyo last week.

SmartStorage, which uses lithium ion batteries, can be used on its own or combined with solar panels and will be rolled out in other states later this year, according to a Sharp statement.

“Demand charges are the fastest growing part of utility bills for commercial customers and in some cases can reach half of a company’s monthly utility bill,” Ideal Power Inc. said in a statement July 30. The Austin, Texas-based company has signed an agreement to supply battery converters, which function as a battery charger and inverter for SmartStorage, according to the statement.

Sharp has been overhauling its solar business, placing more emphasis on developing solar power stations and making better use of energy storage systems. Other panel makers such as Kyocera Corp. and SunPower Corp. are making similar moves.

“We want to build on what we have achieved and expand that globally,” said Fukushima.

The electronics maker is pulling out of its Italian solar venture, its last overseas panel manufacturing plant. The company ended panel production at plants in the U.S. and the U.K. earlier this year.

Copyright 2014 Bloomberg

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