Reported by Jeanny H. Lim (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Kyocera is one of the world’s largest vertically-integrated producers and suppliers of solar energy products. Could you tell us some of the competitive edges that differentiate you from your competitors?
Kyocera started R&D into solar energy in 1975. As one of the pioneers in the industry, we have a track record achievements including being the first company to mass produce multicristalline silicon solar cells using the casting method in 1982--which is now the most common production method. Furthermore, we were the first company to commercialize residential-use solar power generating systems in Japan in 1993. Evidence of the long-term quality and reliability of our modules can be found in a 43 kW solar power generating system that we installed in 1984 on our SakuraSolarEnergyCenter in Japan, which is still generating electricity at an extremely high level compared to its original power output after more than 25 years. The degradation is measured with 9.6 % only.
Kyocera is the first company in the solar energy sector in Germany to receive the ‘TUV Service tested’ certificate. What does this achievement mean?
Quality is crucial for Kyocera. We wanted to prove the dedication to customer service by the ‘TUV Service tested’ certificate. Kyocera is the only solar company as of today who has received this ‘TUV Service tested’ certificate. It is awarded on the basis of a representative customer questionnaire and a good rating from our customers. Apart from product quality and system performance, assessment criteria also include system reliability, warranty conditions and speed of reaction to onsite issues.
I understand Kyocera is one of the few companies in the solar industry to carry out all production steps in its own manufacturing facilities. This vertical integration is believed to be what makes it possible for Kyocera to conduct 100% product control and helps to guarantee the output of every individual cell and module. Could you explain more about your vertical integration strategy?
As said quality is crucial for Kyocera. In order to provide highest quality, it is necessary to have both the know-how and the access to the complete production processes. Kyocera has both: based on our 36 years of experience in the field of PV, we can utilize our expertise in order to optimize our production. As you can imagine, there are many big, small and tiny screws you can use in order to get the best result. But as mentioned you need the know-how and the vertical integrated production.
A lot of Chinese producers are very focused on vertical integration. How is Kyocera differentiated from them?
We take the Chinese competition serious and some of the Chinese manufacturers will stay in the market also in the future. However, it is important to understand that Kyocera is targeting for a different customer clientele and market segment. Our customers are used to live and work in a high-quality environment. Therefore, they will decide for a high-quality PV system, too.
Kyocera Corporation announced that it is increasing its solar module production capacity with the start of construction of its second plant in Kadan, Czech Republic, and the completion of an expanded assembly plant in Tianjin, China. Please tell us about the current status of your production capacity expansion and future plans.
The assembly plants in Europe and China combined with the company’s other existing module assembly plants in Japan, Mexico and the U.S. help to meet Kyocera’s annual production target of 1 gigawatt by fiscal year 2013. Kyocera recently started construction of its second solar module assembly plant in the Czech Republic. The new facility is set to be completed in fall 2011 and will have an annual capacity of 360 megawatts, combining with the existing Czech plant for a total of 560 MW per year─the largest solar module assembly site in the Kyocera Group.
Please introduce some of the recent and successful projects you’ve carried out.
First one: Kyocera has supplied approximately 6 MW of the company’s multicrystalline silicon solar modules for a large-scale solar power plant near Turin, Italy.
The large-scale solar plant in Cigliano (Piedmont region), with an output of approximately 6 MW, is the largest installation in Italy to have been equipped with Kyocera solar modules. In total, 13,920 modules of the type KD215GH-2PU have been installed and 12,900 of the type KD235GH-2PU. The plant is operated by the Kyocera partner Enermill Energie Rinnovabili s.r.l.
Second one: Kyocera will supply roughly one million solar modules equivalent to 204 MW for Thailand’s largest solar power project, which is being implemented by Solar Power Co., Ltd. Under the project, 6 MW ‘Solar Farms’ are to be constructed at 34 sites concentrated in northeastern Thailand.
In total, the Solar Farm project will provide electricity for the local area with an annual power output sufficient for roughly 170,000 average Thai households. The Solar Farm Project is being planned, constructed and managed by Solar Power Co., Ltd., and the power generated from the project will be routed to the Provincial Electricity Authority of Thailand (PEA) and then supplied to homes and businesses. The project plans to build 34 individual 6 MW Solar Farms for a total output of 204 MW.
Third one: Kyocera has supplied solar modules for the largest Czech outdoor plant. The total volume of the project is 4 MWp over a production area of 9 hectares.
During the installation of the Czech SINUS photovoltaic park, the Austrian photovoltaic pioneer Pan Oekoteam has focused entirely on quality and has opted exclusively for Kyocera in its choice of modules. By the end of 2009, a total of 4,899 Kyocera modules of the type KD210GH-2PU and 2,700 of the type KD205GH-2PU had already been installed. In 2010, a total of 1.582 MWp has already been connected to the grid. In September 2010, the park delivered 3 MWp. The final construction phase of 4 MWp is scheduled for 2011.
Governments around the world, especially in Europe, have slashed subsidies for solar. What has the impact of that been so far for Kyocera?
These restrictions are rather related to big free field projects. However, now as before we see the future of PV in the residential and industry market. Since Kyocera is traditionally strong in these markets, the impact to Kyocera is rather limited.
How is the residential solar market in Europe different from that of Japan?
Our focus is different in each market, as the conditions of solar subsidies vary from country to country. For example, in Japan, subsidies for residential-use solar are ample so demand in this area is expanding. Also, we are seeing an increase in industrial and commercial installations including utility power companies which are building megawatt-class solar power plants, and government policies to increase the use of solar power at public schools. In Japan, Kyocera holds the largest market share for industrial and commercial installations.
What is your view on technological development of solar cells and modules in the coming years?
We have already achieved 18.5% conversion efficiency in lab tests with cells using our Back Contact technology. However, with current enhancements in our conventional multicrystalline silicon cell (156 x 156 mm), and taking costs into account, at this time we believe our conventional cell is superior. On the mass-production level, this cell has an average conversion efficiency of 16.9%.
What are your expectations for the development of the PV market in Europe this year?
The first half of 2011 was determined by FiT changes and many discussions created a certain reluctance in the market. However, we are positive for the second half of 2011 since there has been no FiT reduction from July onwards in Germany as generally expected. This will give new momentum to the market development.
What do you think is the next challenge facing you for further growth?
As always, our big issue is cost. As a solar manufacturer, we continue to develop and research highly efficient products, improving our technologies.
Our mission is to provide high-quality and reliable products at a reasonable price.
Jeanny H. Lim is Editor-in-Chief of InterPV. Send your comments to email@example.com.
For more information, please send your e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ⓒ2011 www.interpv.net All rights reserved.