The Japanese thin-film solar cell manufacturer Solar Frontier is currently in the process of mulling the development of a factory in upstate New York, according to recent reports.
The move would represent the vanguard in the company’s expansion into the American market.
As per the reports, the location for the factory will likely be in Buffalo, with construction beginning sometime before 2018.
“It’s a sustainable market,” Solar Frontier’s president, Atsuhiko Hirano, asserted about the US in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal. “One of the good things about the US is solar is adopted with relatively little help from the government. The risk of policy change affecting solar demand is small.”
Market Watch provides more from Hirano, and a bit of background:
He said his company is now studying the feasibility of joint research and development and manufacturing of solar cells with the State University of New York.
Solar power-related costs have fallen sharply in the US to levels where power generators only need modest financial help to make generation worthwhile. In some states where sunlight is plentiful, electricity prices from utility-scale solar power stations are cheaper than the average power price, Mr Hirano said.
Solar Frontier was set up in 2006 by Showa Shell as an effort to diversify its energy business amid falling oil demand in Japan. The unit turned a profit for the first time in the fourth quarter of 2012 and supported Showa Shell’s struggling oil business in the first half of this year. In the January to June period, Solar Frontier’s operating profit more than doubled while Showa Shell’s oil unit’s operating profit plummeted to less than a tenth of what it was a year earlier.
With regard to the supposed greater cost of Japanese products, Hirano maintained that Solar Frontier most certainly has the ability to be competitive in the US without any major public financial support.
Solar Frontier has long been the #2 thin-film solar manufacturer, far behind world-leading First Solar, but seeing rapid growth, especially in the strong Japanese market. A move to the US could really shake things up and make this a more interesting market segment.
Image Credit: Solar Frontier
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