Sharp to up thin solar cell output

OSAKA (Kyodo) Sharp Corp. will boost production of thin-film silicon solar cells next year at its Katsuragi, Nara Prefecture, factory due to a worldwide silicon shortage, company officials said Friday.

The company decided to increase production of the solar cells to an annual power generation capacity of several hundred megawatts from the current 15 megawatts, the officials said.

Of two types of solar cells — thin-film and crystalline silicon cells — the former can be made with 99 percent less silicon and can help reduce production costs, improving Sharp’s competitive edge, they said.

Industry sources say the total capital investment, though not made public by the electronics maker, would exceed ¥10 billion.

The Katsuragi factory is capable of producing cells worth a total of 710 megawatts in power generation capacity, of which thin-film cells account for just 15 megawatts, or enough to supply solar panels for 4,000 homes.

According to some estimates, the solar cell market is expanding at a rate of almost 30 percent per year. Sharp is the world’s top producer, but faces tough competition from Germany’s Q-Cells AG and China’s Suntec Power Holdings Co.