Tokyo’s PV Expo movers and shakers

Big names are present, like the Japanese heavyweights Mitsubishi, Hitachi and Kyocera; smaller domestic companies are also edging their way in, trying to win over international partners; and the Japanese semiconductor equipment suppliers are around, ready to jump on the solar bandwagon.

An interesting presence is the Silicon Bank – a definite attention drawer. The Tokyo-based company acts as a middle man for silicon deals. As such, silicon materials and products, as well as remelt materials pass through this bank. Manager Katsuyuki Hironaka tells pv magazine that the company has its presence not only in Japan, but also in important markets like India, Korea, China, Taiwan, Germany and the U.S.

Japanese modules

One factor, which stuck out during the first day of the expo, was the large number of module manufacturers, which had stuck ‘new’ labels on their modules. When queried, many replied that while the modules are new, they are generally only for sale in Japan, and will probably never see the light of the international market.

Kyocera’s Chiaki Ishizaka explained why: the company’s Samurai 46,62 and 77.5 watt modules, for example, are long, and comprised of two rows of cells, unlike more conventional PV modules. Consequently, they are particularly suited for Japanese rooftops, which are generally four sided and slope in a slightly different manner from typical U.S. and European roofs. Houses in Japan are also significantly smaller, thus having less surface area to work with. A conventional module would fit, however, it would mean less than optimal use of space, as there would only be room for a few, more conventionally-sized modules, like those installed on German roofs. Therefore, the double rowed, narrower modules are better and thus offered by companies like Kyocera for the domestic residential market in Japan.

Innovations

Apart from the crystalline module manufacturers, Japanese firms like OG Corporation, with their subsidiary Osakagodo America, are seeking to obtain a larger share of the PV rooftop market as well, with their flexible thin film CIGS modules. The company’s Powerflex covers the rooftops of factories in Japan and they are seeking to further expand their installations in this more niche field.

Furthermore, a number of innovations are present at the event. For instance, Kyosemi’s Sphelar is a spherical light receiving surface that enables all types of light to be collected. The light is captured from all angles by the one to 1.5 millimeter tiny bubble-like cells. The Sphelar can be wrapped around different surfaces, thus giving building-integrated PV a very creative edge.

Solyndra has also displayed its 360 degree solar tubes. Although they were developed a couple of years ago, the company has since updated them and brought them back, due to their green prowess. The upgraded 200 series is bigger and comes without snap on mounting, thus requiring no screwing. With 80 percent fewer parts per kilowatt than the previous systems, the newer version definitely brings more to the flat roof market.

It is clear that exciting developments are on the horizon at the PV show in Tokyo, with TUV Rheinland Japan, for example, gearing up to talk about their new certification for PV power plants. Many other new innovations, ideas and solutions pushing the creativity envelope have also been popping up through the day.

The idea then, is to keep the eyes and ears open for the next two days. So, watch out for more news later!