In addition to national and local policy measures and utility company backing, PV manufacturers are also supporting PV system development by enhancing industry structure: accelerating the reduction in system costs, as well as expanding production capacity. It is expected that these activities will make a major contribution to the expansion of the domestic PV market.
Currently, 11 companies are manufacturing PV cells/modules in Japan: Sharp, Kyocera, Sanyo Electric, Mitsubishi Electric (MELCO), Kaneka, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), Space Energy, Fuji Electric Systems, Honda Motor, Showa Shell Sekiyu and Clean Venture 21. These groups, some of the world's largest PV players, cover a range of technologies. For instance, Hitachi sold its bi-facial silicon PV module business to Space Energy. Fuji Electric manufactures flexible amorphous silicon (a-Si) modules while Honda Motor and Showa Shell Sekiyu manufacture copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) modules. Clean Venture 21 plans spherical Si modules. Honda Motor established Honda Soltec, which started module production at its Kumamoto plant while Showa Shell Sekiyu has started production at its 20 MW/year plant in Miyazaki Prefecture.
MSK is specialized in manufacturing PV modules and it was acquired by Suntech Power Holdings, China, in 2006. Another manufacturer specializing in PV modules, YOCASOL, was established in 2007 through an employee buyout when former employees of MSK's Fukuoka Plant bought the facility. Fujipream also manufactures PV modules with its own technology, such as its double-glass light-through PV modules.
Table 1, shows current plans for expanding production capacity, entries highlighted in green show capacity of thin-film PV modules. As well as solar cell manufacturers, other companies in the PV industry have also been expanding production capacities, including: silicon feedstock; silicon ingot/wafers; gas for semiconductors; raw materials and components; as well as manufacturers of PV manufacturing equipment.
In the distribution of PV systems, some major prefabricated housing manufacturers have strengthened their partnerships with PV manufacturers to introduce the systems to residential houses. In response to the government's efforts, the housing industry in Japan - in co-operation with the PV industry - established the 'Council on promoting solar housing' to encourage the fully-fledged dissemination of residential PV. Working groups will be established to discuss accelerating roll out, development, and the integration of PV modules.
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