Japan: Solar Frontier moves into downstream PV

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As the Japanese utility scale photovoltaic market continues to develop at pace, with major corporations entering the photovoltaic power plant business, manufacturer Solar Frontier has continued to develop its downstream business, in an agreement with the company Yano Industry. The agreement will see two plants built in the Miyazaki Prefecture, where Solar Frontier bases its manufacturing operations, with a capacity of 2.2 MW and 1.1 MW.

The two plants will be called Kunitomi 1 and 2 Megasolar – Solar Frontier’s main manufacturing operations is known as its Kunitomi fab – and will be located on land owned by Yano Industry. In an interesting development, Solar Frontier will own and operate the first 2.2 MW plant, leasing the land off Yano. "Misago" gravel, from Yano Industry, will be used at the sites.

Both power plants are scheduled to begin feeding electricity into the grid by the end of March 2013 and will qualify for Japan’s generous FITs for large-scale PV. In a release announcing the new power plants at the site of both Yano Industry’s and Solar Frontier’s production, the companies have described the move as "highly symbolic." Solar Frontier has a 2 MW system on the roof of its Kunitomi manufacturing facility (pictured).

Solar Frontier will supply 14,000 of its CIGS modules to the Kunitomi 1 and 7,000 to Kunitomi 2.

Corporations move into PV

There has been an increasing number of signs from Japan of late, that a diverse array of Japanese companies have decided to move into developing large-scale photovoltaic power plants, under the revamped FIT regime – which came into effect mid-year. Noriaki Yamashita, a senior research at the Japanese Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies told pv magazine that renewables also remain popular amongst the Japanese population post-Fukushima.

"There was a poll by NHK – the national broadcasting company – that shows that over 70 percent of the people surveyed want renewable energies, and more than 70,000 people said that they did not want more nuclear and in fact want a phase out of nuclear," said Yamashita. "Many companies try to join the large-scale PV sector," he continued, "some trading companies, logistics companies."

Yamashita reported that in June, more than 40 big Japanese companies announced changes to their business strategies to incorporate the development of renewable energy, including photovoltaics.

Solar Frontier’s Brooks Herring, vice president of communications and operations, confirmed to pv magazine that a part of the company’s strategy is to provide project development services to facilitate these companies’ move into photovoltaics. Under such a structure, being a local supplier and with teams very familiar with the unique challenges presented by the market there, the Japanese producer may have a competitive advantage, rather than competing purely on price with Chinese-produced crystalline silicon modules.