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Sharp to Boost Annual Production Capacity for Thin-Film Solar Cells


Sharp Corporation will increase the capacity of its production system for thin-film solar cells at its Katsuragi Plant (Nara Prefecture, Japan) from the current level of 15 MW (megawatts) to 160 MW (160,000 kW) per year by October 2008.

Thin-film solar cells are fabricated by depositing thin layers of silicon on a glass substrate. This structure enables a dramatic reduction in the amount of silicon raw material used to approximately one hundredth the amount used in conventional crystalline solar cells, and also provides for shorter production process times and lower costs from manufacturing economies of scale. An additional feature is that, compared to crystalline solar cells, the outstanding temperature characteristics of thin-film solar cells enable greater amounts of power to be generated in geographic regions where air temperatures are high.

New applications for thin-film solar cells continue to evolve that differ from those for crystalline solar cells. For example, they are being adopted as architectural materials that offer outstanding design characteristics, including “see-through” types for use in curtain walls that allow natural light to shine through, and Lumiwall illuminating solar panels with integrated LEDs that generate electricity during the day and provide illumination at night. In the future, a broad range of new applications can be anticipated, including as windows and on wall surfaces of homes and buildings.

In addition, the feed-in tariff system (surplus electricity buy-back program) which began in Germany is now spreading to neighboring countries, including Spain and Italy, and demand for thin-film solar cells in Europe continues to expand, in particular because of their outstanding temperature characteristics.

Sharp began mass production of tandem thin-film solar cells with a tandem-junction structure (amorphous silicon and microcrystalline silicon) in September 2005. Now, Sharp is making thin-film solar cells with a triple-junction structure, which consists of two amorphous layers and a microcrystalline layer. With these triple-junction thin-film solar cells, Sharp has achieved module conversion efficiencies of approximately 10%, at the industry’s top level.

Sharp is expanding the production system for thin-film solar cells at its Katsuragi Plant prior to opening a new thin-film solar cell plant (in Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture). In addition, as the world’s leading manufacturer, Sharp is forging ahead with further production innovations for crystalline solar cells and is responding to the rapidly growing demand for solar cells worldwide.

· Target date for implementation: October 2008
· Investment: Approx. 22 billion yen
· Annual production capacity: 160 MW
· Production site: Katsuragi Plant, Nara Prefecture, Japan

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