Several months back Sharp, the biggest maker of solar panels in the world, has invested 72 billion Yen (~$725 million) into a plant that will make thin film solar cells in Sakai, in the Osaka prefecture. The production will start in March of 2010, with an initial annual capacity of 480 megawatts, bringing Sharp’s total production to 1 gigawatt. Sharp has a great chances to keep its leadership position on the market.
Sharp claims that by using large-size glass substrates developed in collaboration with Tokyo Electron Ltd they will “dramatically improve production efficiency” and be better able to respond to the extremely fast-growing demand for solar photovoltaic panels. This should help further lower the cost of solar energy.
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.