The next MegaTrend is solar power technology driven by the global thirst for alternative and sustainable energy sources. This need for alternative power is also driven by developing nations that lack the electrical grid infrastructure in remote regions and find use in solar power.
According to Fortune Magazine, the global market for solar panels will be at a record high in the first half of 2016. Favorable policies in the United States and China support solar panel production. However, by the end of 2016, the United States will reduce the generous 30% tax credit for customers to 10%. This change will severely affect solar panel manufacturing. Still, manufacturers are expected to produce 35 gigawatts of solar panels in the first half of 2016 in a pre tax-cut rush.
There are many manufacturers of solar panels and solar cells with different mechanisms for capturing sunlight for energy. These methods include organic methods, dye sensitization, the use of silicon, and other organics with continuing innovation. According to Thomson Reuters, Sharp, Mitsubishi, Kyocera and LG were ranked the top three innovators in solar cell materials.
Electronics company leading in the solar division
Vehicle and electronics manufacturer leading in lead-free solar cells
Electronics and ceramics manufacturer leading in solar and energy storage
“We will stay as the kind of company society needs.” -Kozo Takahashi, CEO
With more than 50,000 employees, Sharp was ranked as the top innovator of solar cell materials and No. 2 for innovation in other solar PV components. Since its founding in 1912 in Japan, Sharp has grown from an electronics company to a technology company including energy technology. More specifically, Sharp has investing billion in research and development in solar cell materials technology since 1959
This research reaped positive results. In 1963, commercial production began and, in 1980, launched solar calculators. Through many years of R&D, Sharp’s cells have now achieved “the world’s highest cell conversion rate of 44.4% at 302 times the concentrated sunlight by using a triple-junction compound solar cell” according to a2016 report by the New Energy Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO). Also, Sharp recently launched its home energy storage system product line in Japan that are cloud-based powered by lithium-ion battery with weather forecasting and rooftop photovoltaic production. The growth of this market is expected to be driven by the deregulation of the retail electricity market and reduction in solar power tax incentives according to PV Tech.
Despite being a leading innovator in this segment, Sharp’s Energy Solutions Division recorded a 42.2% decrease in sales from JPY 196.6 billion in 2014 to JPY 113.6 billion in 2015. In a move to save the company, Sharp recently made significant changes beginning with a sale of 66% stake at $5.9billion to Taiwanese Foxconn Technology Group according to PV Magazine. The energy division, however, will continue to operate as an independent entity. However, with many new competitors entering the market, Sharp’s long history of innovation in solar energy is beginning to be challenged.
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“As a global leading green company, we will pursue every avenue to develop operations in the fields related to the environment and energy, and social infrastructure.” –Masaki Sakuyama, President & CEO
Founded in 1870, Japan-based Mitsubishi Electric is now a $40 billion company with more than 120,000 employees. Their innovations come from the $2 billion invested annually in research and development according to their corporate website. Since 1974, they started developing photovoltaic systems for space satellites with eventual progression in providing systems for commercial and residential use.
Also among the top ranking innovators, Mitsubishi has been in the solar product sector for more than 40 years. Some of their innovations include photovoltaic modules and electric-solar systems. In 2003, they pioneering volume production of lead-free solder.
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“There is growing need for energy storage in the U.S. residential market.” –Goro Yamaguchi, CEO
In 1975, Kyocera started research and development initiatives into solar cells. In 1982, mass production of multi-crystalline silicon solar cells began with factories in Japan, China, Mexico and the Czech Republic. Now, Kyocera has become an industry leader and innovator of solar technology.
Along with Sharp, Kyocera introduced solar cells in pocket calculators. Since this time, their research and development initiatives in solar cells have resulted in achieving over 16% efficiency thus providing high annual energy yields according to the United States Department of Energy.
This accomplishment has not translated into sustained sales despite the forward thinking innovation. Although they posted a $66million profit in their ceramics division, which includes solar, sales fell by 8.9% in the first half of 2015. These numbers drove Kyocera’s market entry into the United States with an integrated energy storage solution for the commercial sector. Kyocera is ahead of the times waiting for the market to catch up.