Sharp Set to Supply US With Next Generation Thin Film Solar Cells

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.

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