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Posted: October 13, 2008

Sharp Begins Selling Next-Generation Thin Film Solar Cells in the U.S.

(Nanowerk News) Sharp, a world leader in solar cell production, announced today at Solar Power International 2008 that it will introduce next generation thin film solar cells in the U.S. market in the near future. With its thin film solar product, Sharp will be capable of handling multi-megawatt, large-scale utility projects that are best served by a thin film solar solution, and the company is already working with prospective U.S. customers in preparation for these large-scale deployments. Sharp is one of the few companies who can supply customers with a complete solar product portfolio – including mono-crystalline, poly-crystalline and multi-junction thin film solar cells – to meet the specific needs of virtually any commercial or residential solar installation.
“For the last fifty years, Sharp has researched and developed advanced, innovative solar technologies, guaranteeing our customers superior performance and excellent reliability from Sharp solar products,” said Ron Kenedi, vice president, Sharp Solar Energy Solutions Group. “As the U.S. solar market grows, deployments of multi-megawatt utility projects and large-scale commercial installations are on the rise. We are leading the way by expanding our technology portfolio so that we can meet the demands of these customers with an efficient, reliable and cost-effective solar solution of the caliber they’ve come to expect from Sharp products, whether it’s traditional solar modules or thin film PV."
Sharp plans to increase thin film solar production with the construction of next-generation solar manufacturing facilities. Sharp Corporation has just completed installation of a new 2nd-generation thin-film solar cell production line at its Katsuragi Plant (Katsuragi City, Nara Prefecture) using large-size glass substrates measuring approximately 1,000 x 1,400 mm, equivalent to 2.7 times the area of Sharp’s 1st generation substrates (560 x 925 mm), and will begin volume production this October. The addition of this new line expands production capacity for thin-film solar cells at the Katsuragi Plant to 160 MW annually.
Last year, Sharp began construction on a thin film and LCD manufacturing plant in Sakai City, Osaka. Slated to become operational in March 2010, the Sakai City factory will leverage Sharp’s solar manufacturing success with a similar technology – Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) panels – to achieve an initial production capacity of 480 MW. The new factory will use an even more advanced thin film technology. Together with the production capacity of Sharp’s Katsuragi plant, this will boost Sharp’s global thin film solar production to 640 MW; future expansion will bring the capacity at Sakai to 1 gigawatt (GW).
Thin film modules are manufactured with less than 1 percent of the silicon used for crystalline solar cells, allowing for simpler manufacturing and lower production costs. To optimize conversion of different parts of the solar spectrum, thin films can be layered on top of each other to create a more efficient multi-junction product.
Photovoltaic modules fabricated using the 2nd-generation tandem-junction thin-film solar cells manufactured on Sharp’s new production line at its Katsuragi plant feature an industry-leading 9% module conversion efficiency and high 128 W power output. It is these modules that will make up the initial offering from Sharp in 2009.
Right Product for the Right Installation
With the addition of thin film as part of its product line-up, Sharp now puts forth a two-pronged strategy for fulfilling the specific needs of all its customers. Sharp is one of the only manufacturers who can offer a PV solution that is ideal for virtually any end user’s power needs, be it traditional crystalline or thin film PV. Traditional crystalline PV is the best value for roof-mounted systems and is widely used for residential and commercial rooftop applications that place high value on module efficiency. However, thin film is the preferred technology for multi-megawatt scale utility projects. Thin film promises lower installed cost per megawatt and more megawatt-hours per installed megawatt than crystalline for the end-user, particularly in hot climates. It is also an optimal choice for installations where there is ample land for the system.
About Sharp Solar
Sharp Electronics Corporation is the U.S. subsidiary of Sharp Corporation, Osaka, Japan, a world-leading provider of crystalline solar PV for residential, commercial, industrial, off-grid and satellite applications for almost 50 years. Sharp powers more homes and businesses than any other solar manufacturer in the world, supplying modules for one-quarter of all solar systems installed globally. Last year, Sharp became the first manufacturer to reach 2 GW of cumulative solar cell production – one-quarter of the world’s total production – since it began mass production of solar cells in 1963.
Sharp entered the U.S. solar market in 2002 and is currently the market leader. Sharp has maintained solar module operations at its 100 MW manufacturing facility in Memphis, TN since 2003, celebrating the assembly of the one-millionth solar module in February 2008. Sharp’s suite of residential products includes the breakthrough OnEnergyTM solar system, an all-in-one solution that offers enhanced aesthetics; and building-integrated solar modules for a discrete, nearly invisible installation.
Further information on Sharp’s commitment to solar energy, its product line and the ways in which Sharp makes it easy to go solar is available online at
Source: Sharp (press release)
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