Canadian Solar jumps into Japan panel market


Canadian Solar Inc., the world’s fifth-largest maker of solar modules, plans to build a plant in Japan as soon as fiscal 2013 to become the first foreign company to produce solar panels here, company sources said.

The Ontario-based firm is just one of many companies vying for a foothold in Japan as a new government incentive program this July is expected to spur demand for green energy amid public furor over the Fukushima disaster.

“It will be more efficient to produce (the solar panels) where consumers will be using them,” Yu Kaname, president of Canadian Solar Japan K.K., said of the decision to manufacture domestically to meet the anticipated demand. The firm currently imports its solar panels from China.

Canadian Solar expects to invest several billion yen in the plant, which will have an annual production capacity of 150 mw. Solar firms measure production in megawatts.

In March, the firm announced a separate project to build a 2,000-kw solar power plant in Tsu, Mie Prefecture, scheduled for launch by March 2013.

The company is reviewing candidate sites in Fukushima Prefecture and other areas devastated by the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis. It is also considering building a training center for solar panel maintenance and other facilities at the plant to help boost employment in the disaster-hit region.

Canadian Solar, which boasts high-quality solar photovoltaic products and low cost structures, has a roughly 3 percent share of the Japanese market and aims to raise this to 10 percent in five years.

Under the government’s renewable energy feed-in tariff scheme, major utilities will be required to buy all solar electricity generated in principle by companies, households and others for ¥42 per kwh, including sales tax, a price almost equivalent to that being demanded by green-energy providers.

“Japan has set a high buyback price, which is very attractive, so there is no reason for foreign companies not to enter the market,” said Hiroharu Watanabe, a senior analyst at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc.

China’s Suntech Power Holdings Co., the world’s largest producer of solar panels, will revamp its maintenance site in Saku, Nagano Prefecture, in July with a showroom and upgraded equipment to improve customer service.

Meanwhile, Yingli Green Energy Holding Co., also from China, and U.S. energy services provider SunEdison, have recently announced full-fledged forays into Japan at a time when demand for solar in large markets like Europe is waning.

To fend off the jump in competition from foreign players, companies like Sharp Corp., Kyocera Corp., Mitsubishi Electric Corp. and Panasonic Corp., which recently took over Sanyo Electric Co., are focusing on high power generation efficiencies and stepping up efforts to expand businesses targeting households and industrial companies to meet demand triggered by the quake and government incentives.

20% power-saving plea


Companies and households in much of central and western Japan will be asked to cut electricity use by up to 20 percent, reports said Sunday as threats of summer blackouts loomed.

A government panel expects Kansai Electric Power Co. to come up 14.9 percent short of peak demand in August. To avoid blackouts, the panel plans to seek around a 20 percent cut in usage in Kansai from 2010 levels, the Asahi Shimbun and the Mainichi Shimbun dailies said.