Historical Overview of the Solar Industry in Japan

From time to time we take you back to one of our past reports to present the state of an industry as it was viewed when it was written. This time, we look at the solar industry.

Until 2004 the largest solar PV market in the world, Japan is the third largest market for the second year running, with 2,633 MW of capacity in 2009. 94% of capacity is grid-connected distributed generation. This has been achieved by a combination of government promotion, technology and industrial development . Solar PV has been the main thrust of the Japanese government’s renewables programme, whereas in Europe a more broad brush approach has been adapted, with wind power at the forefront. The Japanese government has a target of 28 GW by 2020 and 53 GW by 2030. Their concentration on photovoltaics is no coincidence but reflects the climate and population density of Japan and the advanced development of the semiconductor industry. In 2009, Japan manufactured 15% of the world’s solar cells and it leads a world leader on thin film technology along with the United States, with Kaneka, Matsushita Battery, Sanyo, Sharp and Showa Shell Sekiyu all contributing.

In June 2009, Sanyo Electric said it would spend $82 million to add 90 MW of production capacity by 2010, while Sharp had indicated it will open a new plant in 2010 with a 1 GW capacity for thin film cells.

The industry has been given a boost in June 2009 with the Japanese government reintroducing subsidies for the capital cost of installing domestic rooftop solar panels. New build houses with installed PV capacity are becoming more common place and electrical appliance and home stores have started selling PV modules for existing buildings.

Commercial buildings have also started to install solar panels on a larger, wider scale for self-generation.