Sanyo Lagging Behind in Solar Cell Production

Feb 18, 2009
Motonobu Kawai, Nikkei Microdevices
Global solar cell demand estimated by Sanyo Electric
Global solar cell demand estimated by Sanyo Electric
[Click to enlarge image]

"It might be difficult to rank in the top ten," said Tetsuhiro Maeda, vice president of Sanyo Electric Co Ltd and general manager of its Solar Division.

In the 2007 solar cell production volume ranking released by research firms, etc, Sharp Corp ceded the top position to Q-cells AG of Germany while Mitsubishi Electric Corp fell out of the top 10. And it is highly likely that Sanyo will disappear from the top 10 list in 2008.

According to the numbers published by Japanese solar cell manufacturers, the production volumes of Kyocera Corp and Sanyo are 290MW and 200MW, respectively, in 2008. Sharp and Mitsubishi have yet to announce their figures.

"We steadily increased our production as planned, from 207MW in 2007 to 290MW in 2008," Kyocera's spokesperson said. With a plan to boost the production to 650MW in fiscal 2011, the company is currently constructing a new production site in Yasu, Shiga Prefecture, Japan.

For Sanyo, which will possibly see its name disappear from the top ten list, "it is not important to join the upper ranks at this point," Maeda said.

There are only small gaps among the major solar cell manufacturers, and the current rank order could drastically change in the future, he said. For example, the largest solar cell manufacturer Q-cells has raised its earnings by specializing in cell manufacturing. But, from now on, it will become more difficult to survive the cost competition with business models of producing only cells or modules as prices go down, Maeda said.

Sanyo considers that it is important to establish an ingot-to-module total manufacturing solution to survive the cost competition. And the company intends to increase its ingot and wafer output as well as to enhance its cell production capacity.

In October 2009, Sanyo announced that it would boost its 30MW ingot and wafer output to 100MW. But it plans to further increase the production capability. The company aims to cut costs through the ingot-to-module total manufacturing solution and leverage its cell technology to differentiate its products from others.