Sharp Corp (OTC: SHCAY (ADR) ), the worlds largest producer of solar cells, announced on Thursday it would invest 22 billion yen ($200 million) to increase capacity for thin-film solar cells at its Katsuragi Plant (shown left, 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.
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.
According to this earlier announcement Sharp was to increase annual production capacity for solar cells at its Katsuragi Plant to 600 MW by November 2006, the world's highest. This current announcement would bring the total to 765 MW.
This Reuters story reported that Sharp had previously announced plans to ramp up its thin-film capacity with a new plant in Sakai in Osaka prefecture to go online by March 2010 and eventually target output of 1,000MW per year at this facility.
Sharp also has UK production capability of 220MW.