February 27, 2008 (Reuters) – Japan’s Sharp Corp, which aims to become the world’s biggest maker of solar cells, is looking abroad to raise annual output of thin-film solar cells by sixfold to 6,000 megawatts after 2012 and beat silicon shortages.
Sharp aims to raise its annual thin-film solar cell production capacity “as soon as possible” after a planned new plant in Osaka, western Japan goes online by March 2010 with eventual output of 1,000 MW per year, Toshishige Hamano, corporate senior executive director, said on Wednesday.
The electronics group, which also supplies liquid crystal display panels, now has thin-film cell capacity of 15 MW per year at its Katsuragi Plant in Nara, western Japan, and plans to raise this to 160 MW in October.
Sharp and rivals such as Germany’s Q-Cells and China’s Suntech Power are locked in a capacity race that is tightening silicon supply and raising materials costs.
New production sites overseas will complement Sharp’s solar business, Hamano said on the sidelines of the International Photovoltaic Power Generation Expo.
Thin-film solar cells use roughly one-hundredth of the silicon needed in conventional solar cells, cutting production time and costs.
“We will not be able to meet demand for solar energy given the current cost structure,” Hamano said.
Q-Cells said earlier this month that it had overtaken Sharp as the world’s No. 1 maker of solar cells in terms of volume in 2007.
Shares of Sharp closed down 2.9 percent, while the benchmark Nikkei average.