Sharp to up Asian cell supply, eyes European market re-entry

Japan’s Sharp Solar, a subsidiary of the Osaka-based electronics giant Sharp, is poised to step up efforts to supply leading Asian and European markets with solar cells, systems and modules respectively.

According to reports from the Japan Times and the Nikkei, the company is expanding it solar cell operations in the Philippines, Indonesia and Mongolia, partnering with local firms in each three countries to develop large-scale solar farms.

Sharp Solar is also considering entering the Taiwanese solar market, supplying panels for the growing residential sector there. The Japan Times, meanwhile, reports that the company hopes to re-enter the European market after weak domestic demand prompted a new sales strategy. Despite shifting 1,001 MW of solar panels for the year ended March 2016 – of which 923 MW went to the Japanese market – conditions in the country are expected to tighten following a cut to the FIT earlier this year.

Bought by Taiwan’s Foxconn earlier this year, the troubled solar arm of Sharp was a victim of tough Chinese competition in Asia, prompting heavy losses in 2014, 2015 and for the first quarter of the year.

Sharp Solar retreated from the contracting markets of Europe in 2014, but is now poised to launch its Blacksolar panels into a number of European markets before the end of 2016, according to sources close to the Japan Times.

Currently assembled in Japan, these high-efficiency panels are seen as a perfect fit for European households, and Sharp is planning to produce them in Europe – possibly via collaboration with local companies.

In Asia, Bloomberg reports, Sharp may procure panels from third-party manufacturers in the first instance for shipment in the three countries identified.

Last month, pv magazine spoke with Izumi Kaizuka of Japan’s RTS Corporation who said that Sharp’s solar panel production capacity remains "very small", and only covers the high efficiency Blacksolar modules. "Mostly Sharp has been buying PV modules from overseas producers, or importing solar cells from Taiwan."