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Solar cell production gains momentum, buyers jack up demand

Posted: 04 Feb 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:solar cell? global sources electronic components? photovoltaic? japan photovoltaic energy association? kyocera?

According to a November 2003 survey conducted by Global Sources Electronic Components, demand for solar cells is on an upswing as buyers increase their inventory levels and order volumes.

A third of the respondents (33 percent) say they plan to boost inventory levels by 11 to 20 percent while one-fifth of the respondents are eyeing a hike of more than 20 percent. Seven percent are targeting a hike of up to 10 percent.

The survey responses also indicate rising order volumes with 47 percent planning an increase of no more than 20 percent while one-fifth of the respondents are targeting a hike of at least 21 percent.

The results reflect the growing popularity of renewable energy sources and the corresponding expansion of the global market for photovoltaic components. In a report for the European Commission titled "PV Status Report 2003: Research, Cell Production & Market Implementation in Japan, USA & the European Union," author Arnulf J?ger-Waldau noted that production of solar cells in the past five years has increased by an average of 40 percent annually. He says photovoltaics has become one of the fastest growing industries as a result of developments in materials and processing technology as well as the launch of market introduction programs in many countries.

Japan, which generates half the world's solar power, is expected to play a major role in the demand/supply scenario. The Japan Photovoltaic Energy Association projects that the Japanese market for solar technology will grow fivefold, reaching $4 billion by 2010.

Production-wise, local makers are scrambling to boost production capacities to meet demand. One maker, Kyocera Corp., announced plans to increase its annual solar cell and module output from 80MW in December 2003 to 120MW by June 2004. The company intends to achieve this by boosting solar cell and module production facilities in Japan and investing in a module production venture in Tianjin, China.

Although mainland China has an established solar power capacity of only 15MW at present, several companies are making huge investments in the line. Baoding Yingli New Energy Resources Co. Ltd invested Rmb160 million ($19.32 million at Rmb8.28:$1) in a polycrystalline silicon solar cell, module and application systems production line, boosting the company's annual capacity from 3MW to 48MW, according to Marketing Executive Wang Long.

Another maker, Shanghai Solar Energy Science & Technology Co. Ltd, is investing Rmb60 million ($7.25 million) in a state-of-the-art solar cell line with an annual capacity of over 10MW.

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