First Solar Inc, a leading solar panel manufacturer based in the US, established a Japanese subsidiary in 2013 and started to tap the Japanese market.
Its main solar panel product uses a compound semiconductor solar cell using cadmium telluride (CdTe). While CdTe solar panel allegedly has the highest conversion efficiency and lowest cost of all types of compound semiconductor solar panels in production, it uses a compound containing cadmium, which is a toxic material. In Japan, which has a history of cadmium contamination such as Itai-itai disease, there is a high psychological barrier to accepting the material.
We interviewed Karl Brutsaert, Director, Business Development, First Solar Inc, who is in charge of the Japanese market.
Q: Do you think CdTe compound semiconductor solar panels will be accepted in Japan, where people are highly reluctant to use cadmium?
Brutsaert: First of all, we want to stress that cadmium telluride (CdTe) is different from cadmium (Cd) and that CdTe is chemically stable. CdTe has been certified as reliable and safe by, for example, independent certifying bodies. Also, in Japan, the safety of solar panels using CdTe has been proved through researches conducted by the University of Tokyo and other organizations.
Furthermore, we launched a recycling program in 2005 to thoroughly control the life cycle of solar panels such as installment, collection and recycling. We believe that, as we continue to present those facts, Japanese users and investors will understand our view.
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