Its not just about televisions any more: Sharp solar panels may be the next big export from Japan, if the company’s new vision gets traction. In fact, it may not even be the photovoltaic panels themselves that are imported, but the expertise to create them and the management to lead local factories in which Sharp solar panels would be constructed.
As recently reported in Businessweek, the President of Sharp Electronics is hoping to capitalize on both concerns about global warming and countries’ potential fears of becoming dependent on importing solar panels rather than oil. Sharp’s President, Mikio Katayama, has devised a plan to address both issues:
“Katayama [is planning on] building more local solar panel factories through joint ventures. The decision could help the company access new markets with fewer resources than it would need to put up a new factory at home. Sharp’s announcement last November that it was discussing a deal with Italian utility Enel marks the first such deal. The two are expected to set up a new solar-panel-making plant in Italy and recruit another investor to share the cost. They could extend their tieup to several solar-power-generating facilities they would run jointly.”
Not surprisingly, Sharp solar panels have a great reputation, as the company is a leading worldwide manufacturer of electronics.
According to the Businessweek article, Sharp will continue to manufacture solar panels in Japan, producing about 480 megawatts’ worth of thin-film solar cells each year, primarily for Japan, the U.S., and Western Europe.
“Sharp’s solar business accounts for less than 7%, or $1.6 billion, of its $30 billion in annual revenues. This fiscal year, Macquarie Securities expects Sharp’s solar division to swing to a profit of $52 million thanks to a 21% gain in revenues, to $2 billion. Next year revenues could be up another 40%. (Sharp’s not just making panels for rooftops and utility projects: In June, it released a clamshell cell phone with a built-in solar panel.)”
And Sharp is in the right location to capitalize on a solar panel market. Japan announced a plan in June this year to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by the year 2020 and to increase solar power output by a factor of 20. These goals will be helped by a new solar panel subsidy, introduced in January, and a program that will be launched by year’s end to allow solar panel owners to sell surplus electricity to utility companies at double the price charged by companies do.
In the meantime, look for Sharp solar panels when considering a switch to PV power. Sharp’s market is focused on thin-film photovoltaic cells that can be manufactured at a faster pace, at a fraction of the cost of traditional silicon cells. And, you never know when a new Sharp solar panel plant may open in your hometown. What a perfect opportunity for a green job!