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Japanese Solar Panels – Comprehensive Guide to Manufacturers, Cost, Efficiency &Technology

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Japanese Solar Panel companies

Sharp, Kyocera, Panasonic-Sanyo, Mitsubishi are the top solar panel producers in the world. Solar Energy in Japan has a long future dating back to 1994 when the government introduced capital subsidies to boost solar energy installations on rooftops. Till 2004, Japan was the largest solar market in the world after which it was overtaken by Germany. After 2004, the growth in the solar industry tapered off as the government reduced the subsidies for solar panels to almost zero. However the low cost Chinese solar module producers have pushed back most of the Japanese companies. The Japanese government grants generous solar subsidies and feed in tariff to boost the renewable energy production in the country which remains far off targets. This has led Japan to become the top non-European market after USA and the growth seems set to continue in the future as well. Japan has relatively low installations costs and is much nearer to grid parity. Also lack of  wind energy makes solar energy more attractive as a renewable energy choice. While large scale solar installations in Japan are almost absent, there remain large numbers of rooftop solar installations.

 Top Japanese  Solar Panel Companies

1) Sharp

The Japanese Zaibatsu known more for its Electronics Products is also the world’s No 1 Company in terms Solar Module Revenues. Sharp has been the solar world leader since the past 4-5 years despite stiff competition recently  from upcoming Chinese Crystalline Solar (c-Si) players and Thin Film Leader First Solar  Sharp’s c-Si division is not cost competitive with the Chinese and Taiwanese companies as its cost structure is almost 30-40% higher than the cheapest Chinese producers. Though the quality of Sharp’s crystalline silicon modules is considered much better,the cost difference has become too big in a rapidly commoditizing industry. While companies like Masdar are abandoning their Thin Film plans, Sharp has started shipping a-Si modules from its 1 GW capacity  plant in Sakai.   With its established distribution strengths and technological abilities in LCD Technology, Sharp is one company that can survive the c-Si onslaught.

Sharp Solar Panels Manufacturing

Sharp is one of the biggest seller of solar panels globally and has a massive distribution network.  Though the quality of the solar panels made by Sharp is much better than normal crystalline solar modules,note the premium that you have to pay is much more. The lower cost of  solar panels made by Asian companies has made Sharp look to move its solar panel factories away from its home base. In volumes, Cd-Te leader First Solar has already overtaken Sharp while Suntech, Yingli, Trina are also fast catching up as the Chinese displace the Japanese in global solar rankings. Sharp’s c-Si business is not cost competitive with the company making very low margins despite much higher ASPs. It has been increasing outsourcing from Taiwanese solar cell companies in order to reduce costs. However that remains a losing strategy for Sharp despite its premium quality reputation. The company has decided to increase the focus on amorphous Silicon (a-Si) Technology building a massive  1 GW plant in Sakai.

Sharp has along history of solar panel manufacturing and have  solar pv modules in atellites, telecommunications, water pumps, remote houses and safety signals, to grid-tied homes, businesses and large solar farms.

Sharp Solar Panel Prices

Sharp Solar Panels Kit sells for $5-6/watt which also includes wiring,brackets and screws. Sharp Solar Panels on the other hand can be bought from retail at $2/watt prices if you look at good shops. There are some wholesale solar panel websites which are wholesale in name only and charge you as high as $3/watt or more. Note good quality European and Japanese solar panels can be bought from $1.8-2/watt while Chinese solar panels can be easily be bought at $.5/watt. The factory price of solar panels is as low sas $1/watt due to a massive supply glut of solar panels globally.

Sharp PV Modules Review

Sharp Residential Solar Panels

Sharp sells a 235 Watts NU-Q235F4 Solar Panel.This black frame module  comes with a standard 25 year warranty. It has  60 solar cells and has an efficiency of 14.4% which is average to below average. The most efficient solar panels from Sanyo and Sunpower can easily touch 19-20%. This solar panel uses multicrystalline technology which is slightly inferior to monocrystalline technology though less costly as well.They are manufactured in USA and Japan.

Sharp Commercial Solar Panels

Sharp sells a wide variety of 235-240 Watts Solar Panels for the Commercial Rooftop Market. Note these solar panels are manufactured in varied locations and qualify for domestic content requirements which exist in Ontario and USA as well.

NU-U235F2235WModule
ND-U235Q2235WModule
ND-U230Q2230WModule
*ND-L240Q2240WModule
*ND-L235Q2235WModule
*ND-L230Q2230WModule
ND-224UCJ224WModule
ND-230UCJ230WModule
NU-Q240F2240WModule
NU-Q235F2235WModule
ND-230QCJ230WModule
ND-224QCJ224WModule
*ND-H230Q2230WModule
*ND-H235Q2235WModule
*ND-H240Q2240WModule

Sharp Solar Panels for Utility Market

Sharp mainly sells its amorphous silicon thin film solar panels for this segment of the market. Note Thin Film Solar Panels are more suited for large ground mounted solar farms which have no space constraints and where cost is more important. Also Thin Film Solar gives a better performance under high temperature and low light than normal crystalline solar panels. Sharp is selling a wide variety of a-Si Solar Panels with 115-135 Watt Power Ratings.

NA-V121HRIEC Thin Film
NA-V128HRIEC Thin Film
NA-V142H5/NA-V135H5IEC Thin Film
NA-V115H1UL Thin Film
NA-V121H1UL Thin Film
NA-V128H1UL Thin Film
NA-V135H1UL Thin Film

Sharp 135 Watt Solar Panel nA-V135h1 is a Tandem Microcrystalline Solar Panels (Read about Types of Solar Panels) which has 45 cells in series by 6 in parallel per quadrant: 4 quadrants in series (1080 total cells). It weights 19 lbs and has high voltage characteristics which is need for utility applications.

2)  Kyocera

Is one of the oldest solar panel manufacturers and is second only to Sharp amongst the Japanese companies. It  also manufactures industrial ceramics, telecommunications equipment, office document imaging equipment, electronic components, semiconductor packages, cutting tools, and components for medical and dental implant systems. Kyocera Solar Corp. in Japan was founded in 1996, and Kyocera Solar, Inc. in the U.S. in 1999. The company has production bases in Japan, Mexico, Europe and China and is planning a factory in California as well. The company plans to reach 1000 MW of production by 2013.

Kyocera Panel Prices (Premium Pricing)

Kyocera Panels are retailing at decent retailers for around $1.8-2.5/Watt which is a significant premium to good quality Chinese solar panels which can be bought at around $1.5/watt. The Kyocera 135 Watt Panels cost around $300 which makes it a costly solar panel to buy given that you can buy the cheapest solar panel at $1/watt if you buy in large bulks of 5000 solar panels. Note you can buy 230 Watt Trina Solar Panels for $360 in Retail which implies a price of only $1.5/watt. You can even buy the other Japanese and European solar panels for $1.5-2.5/Watt depending on the technology and the brand of the solar panel.

Kyocera Solar Modules Review

Kyocera sells Three  series of solar panels for residential market.

i) P Series of Solar Panels

The Kyocera KD F Series of Modules come in 135 Watts to 240 Watts range and each cell around 4 watts of power generation capability. Kyocera Kd modules utilize a larger, more powerful, high efficiency 156mm x 156mm solar cell
Kyocera gives a  standard 20 year power output warranty and 5 year workmanship warranty. It has UL and IEC Certifications.

ii) F Series of Solar Panels

The Kyocera KD P Series of Modules come in 135 Watts to 315 Watts range and each cell around 4 watts of power generation capability. Kyocera KD modules utilize a larger, more powerful, high efficiency 156mm x 156mm solar cell
Kyocera gives a  standard 20 year power output warranty and 5 year workmanship warranty. It has UL and IEC Certifications. It also qualifies for “Buy American” since its made in San Diego.

iii) Off Grid Solar Panels

In this segment the company sells the KYOCERA—KD100-36 Series Solar Panels which has 36 Cells and 100 Watts rating.

 The popular Kyocera Panels are
  • Kyocera 50 watt solar panel 251
  • Kyocera kc130tm 130 Watt Solar Panel
  • Kyocera kd205gx lp Solar Panel

3) Sanyo-Panasonic

Sanyo Solar is one the biggest Japanese solar companies along with Sharp,Kyocera and Mitsubishi. After Panasonic bought Sanyo,the emphasis on the renewable energy green division has been increased by Panasonic. Sanyo had been already been metamorphizing into a Green company from an Electronics company before Panasonic bought it for a very cheap price. Sanyo had never found much success in the cut-throat Electronics Sector with Operating Margins very near to break-even. However under Panasonic it could become a potential leader in the extremely fast growing Green Sectors. Panasonic has completely changed its strategy to become a major Green Player targeting a Major Percentage of Sales in the future to come  from Green Products. Panasonic which is the world’s biggest Plasma TV producer is going to spend $1 Billion on Green Building investments. Panasonic will combine its Green Strengths with Sanyo’s to sell a complete Eco-Friendly Home complete with Solar Power, LED Lighting and Energy Storage and Efficiency capabilities. In Solar where Panasonic  is the No. 3 player in Japan behind Sharp and Kyocera, it is speeding up the expansion of solar capacity. It will spend more than $500 million aiming to triple its energy solutions business in Europe to 800 Million Euros by 2016.

Sanyo PV Modules Review

Sanyo Sells PV Solar Panels under the HIT Brand which is derived from the Technology it uses. The HIT Solar Panels from Sanyo are one of the highest efficiency solar panels availabe on the market today. Sanyo sells most of its Solar Panles in the 180-220 Watts Range unlike other panel makers which have made 240-250 Watts the standard range for their Solar Panels.

Heterojunction with Intrinsic Thin Layer Technology

Heterojunction with Intrinsic Thin Layer HIT Technology uses a thin layer of amorphous silicon along with a layer of crystalline silicon which increases the amount of sunlight that is cap. You can read about different types of solar panels here.

Sanyo sells 3 types of HIT Solar Panels

  • HIT Power N and A Solar Photovoltaic Modules – These have higher power ratings than normal HIT modules and range between 205-225 Watts.
  • HIT Bifacial Photovoltaic Modules – HIT Double 190 is the highest power rated solar module in this range. The back face of a HIT Double panel generates electricity from ambient light reflected off surrounding surfaces, and combines with power from the front face of the panel. Depending upon system design and site albedo, this results in up to 30% higher power generation (more kWh) per square foot. HIT bifacial solar cells are hybrids of single crystalline silicon surrounded by ultra-thin amorphous silicon layers.As temperatures rise, HIT Double solar panels produce more electricity than conventional solar panels at the same temperature, due to their low temperature coefficient.
  • Normal HIT Power Panels – HIT Power panels have a double-wall black anodized aluminum frame for extra strength, and are tested to 60PSF. The panels come pre-equipped with a touchsafe junction box, USE-2 outdoor rated cables, MC4™ locking connectors, and are UL 1703 safety rated for wind, hail, and fire.

Sanyo HIT Solar Panel Prices

Sanyo HIT Solar Panels retail for almost $3/watt which implies that you have to pay around $600 to buy a 200 watt solar panel from Sanyo. Note this price is quite high as good quality solar panels from China made by reputed players like Trina, Yingli can be bought from retail these days for as low as $1.5/watt. If you are buying in large quantities you can buy it for even lower prices.Sanyo 2 kilowatt solar systems complete with cabling and inverters can be bought for aound $6/watt or around $12000.

Sanyo HIT bifacial solar cells made Sanyo HIT-195DA3 solar panels produce 10% or more electricity (kWh) than conventional crystalline silicon solar panels at the same temperature. These cost even more and and have prices of around $/watt which means that you have to shell around $800/watt for a 200 watt panel.

4) Mitsubishi

The Japanese conglomerate with diversified global interests has a big presence in solar and wind energy as well. The company is known for its high quality panels and has a decent presence in USA and Japan. Mitsubishi is a part of the consortium which is looking to set up huge solar power plants in Thailand as well. But now with Japan reaffirming it commitment to renewable energy and on track to kill nuclear energy, Mitsubishi is turning its focus towards the domestic market. Mitsubishi is planning to set up a number of solar power plants in the country to take advantage of the Japan solar Feed in Tariffs.

Mitsubishi Solar Electric Modules/Panels Review

Mitsubishi solar panels are sold in pairs. Two Solar Panels come in one carton. Mitsubishi makes monocyrstalline solar modules in 3 series:

i) Mitsubishi Electric Solar Panels  MLT Series

This Series of Solar Panels come in 250-265 Watts and have efficiency of 15.1% to 16% which is quite high even for monocrystalline solar panels which these solar modules are made of . The weight of the solar panels are 20 kg with voltage at 31 Volts. These solar panels use 120 solar cells and the warranty is for 25 years with minimum warranty of 80%.

ii) Mitsubishi Electric Solar Panels  MJT Series

This Series of Solar Panels come in PV-MJT245GB and PV-MJT240GB models and have efficiency of 14.6% to 14.8%. The weight of the solar panels are 20 kg with voltage at 30 Volts. These solar panels use 60 solar cells and the warranty is for 25 years with minimum warranty of 80% . They use monocrystalline solar technology with 6 inch solar wafers. This is the reason that the solar cells are 60 compared to 120 solar cells in the earlier series.

iii) Mitsubishi Electric Solar Panels  MDT Series

This Series of Solar Panels come in 195-205 Watts (PV-MDT205HB,PV-MDT200HB,PV-MDT195HB) and have efficiency of 14.1% to 14.8%. The weight of the solar panels are 17 kg with voltage at 25 Volts. These solar panels use 120 solar cells and the warranty is for 25 years with minimum warranty of 80% . These solar panels use 50 solar cells and the warranty is for 25 years with minimum warranty of 80% . They use monocrystalline solar technology with 6 inch solar wafers.

Mitsubishi makes polycrystalline solar panels  in 2 series. These polycrystalline PV modules meet international quality standards (UL 1703, IEC 61215, TÜV Safety Class II).

i) TJ-GA6 Series  of polycrystalline PV modules

This Series of Solar Panels come in 210-235 Watts (PV-TJ235GA6,PV-TJ230GA6,PV-TJ225GA6,PV-TJ220GA6,PV-TJ210GA6) and have efficiency of 12.7% to 14.3%. The weight of the solar panels are 20 kgs with voltage at 30 Volts. These solar panels use 60 solar cells and the warranty is for 25 years with minimum warranty of 80%. These solar panels use 60 solar cells and the warranty is for 25 years with minimum warranty of 80% . They use polycrystalline solar technology with 6 inch solar wafers.

They also have a  UJ-GA6 Series which is same as above but with UL certification.

ii) TD-HA6 Series of polycrystalline PV modules

This Series of Solar Panels come in 180-195 Watts (PV-TD195HA6    PV-TD190HA6    PV-TD185HA6    PV-TD180HA6) and have efficiency of 13% to 14.3%. The weight of the solar panels are 17 kgs with voltage at 25 Volts. These solar panels use 60 solar cells and the warranty is for 25 years with minimum warranty of 80% . These solar panels use 50 solar cells and the warranty is for 25 years with minimum warranty of 80% . They use polycrystalline solar technology with 6 inch solar wafers.

Mitsubishi  microcrystalline tandem Solar Panel

Amorphous Silicon (a-Si) is the smaller cousin of the Polycrystalline Solar Panels ,the main difference being the amount of silicon being used on top of the glass substrates. Amorphous Silicon uses a fraction of the Silicon that is normally used in silicon solar panels. This means that the weight and cost of the solar panel is lower however the efficiency is also much lower. A new generation of microcrystalline tandem solar panels with far higher efficiency than the amorphous type has been developed in the past 2-3 years. The substrate for the tandem type is identical in size to  the  substrate  for the amorphous type. The microcrystalline tandem solar cell consists of a microcrystalline solar cell placed on top of a conventional amorphous solar cell.

Mitsubishi MA100T2 Solar Panel

The largest and most cost-effective module in the Mitsubishi range is the MA100 encased in an aluminum frame. It has 21 kgs of weight and max voltage of 600 Volts.It comes with a 20 Year limited Power Output Warranty. It is certified by TUV Rheinland Product Safety GmbH (IEC61646, Safety Class II) and manufactured in an ISO 9001 certified factory.

 Mitsubishi Solar Panels Price

There are also much cheaper solar panels from other bigger Chinese companies like Suntech, Yingli as well. Sharp can say that they have a better quality but that does not work in a commodity business of solar panels. Kyocera Panels are retailing at decent retailers for around $2/Watt which is a significant premium to good quality Chinese solar panels which can be bought at around $1.3/watt or even lower for good quality Tier 2 solar panels like CEEG Solar Panels, JA Solar Panels etc. Note you can buy 230 Watt Trina Solar Panels for $360 in Retail which implies a price of only $1.5/watt.

Mitsubishi also sells solar panels systems with solar inverters,solar panels and monitoring software for slightly higher prices.

Where are  Mitsubishi Solar Panels made

Mitsubishi does all the manufacturing and research of its solar panels and solar cells at its factories and centers in Japan. So most of the solar products from Mitsubishi are made in Japan itself and are of high quality.

5) Solar Frontier

The Japanese company which was earlier known as Showa Shell Solar. The company joined the rank of major solar companies once it started the new 900MW “Kunitomi” production plant in Miyazaki. Note only has the company started big in production, it also rapidly signed deals around the globe in India, Middle East and America.

Solar Frontier Solar Modules Review (150 Watts)

Solar Frontier sells Solar Panels in the 140 to 155 Watts in the US and the rest of the world. The company sells 4 Solar Modules:

  • SF140-L
  • SF145-L
  • SF150-L (150 Watts)
  • SF155-L

The company claims the following features:

  • Efficiency of  the  thinfilm module, up to 12.6%
  •  Up to 10% extra kWh/kWp vs crystalline  modules
  • Light soaking effect boosts output after installation
  • PTC/STC rating over 90%

The voltage of these solar panels at 80 Volts is a bit on the higher side and the Current at 2 Amps on the lower side. Due to lower efficiencies, Solar Frontier Solar Panels are ideal for ground mounted large solar farms and utility scale solar installations. The Solar Panels have a 20 kg Weight and a Plastic Film Back sheet.

Solar Frontier has received Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) accreditation for its SF130-150 series CIS modules in the UK.

Solar Frontier Projects

Solar Frontier is set to  supply CIS solar modules to projects in India under National Solar Mission and Gujarat State program, totaling more than 30MW to be installed by the end of 2011. The Company is benefiting from the fact that it is not subject to domestic content requirements as JNNSM exempts thin film solar panels to be manufactured in India. The company is also selling solar panels to a project in Thailand.

Solar Frontier Panels Warranty

Solar Frontier module owners o have the option to register their operating solar panels by visiting the Solar Frontier Web site and uploading the flash data they receive from S distributors and installers. The company gives a 25 year extended warranty on all its solar panels. These Solar Panels are reinsured by the German Insurance giant Munich Re.What this means is that in a case where Solar Frontier goes out of the solar panel business, Munich Re will insure that the warranty holds good. This is better than the standard warranty given by solar panel manufactures.

Where are Solar Frontier Solar Panels Made

All the Three Solar Frontier Solar Panel Production Plants are located in Miyazaki in Japan which used to house the former plasma plant of Hitachi. The Company is spending around $1 Billion in Capex for building the 1 GW capacity implying roughly $1 capex/watt which is not exactly cheap though not very expensive either.

Solar Frontier Panels Technology

Solar Frontier makes Solar Panels using the CIS Technology which is different from the normal silicon crystalline solar panels made by a majority of the solar companies. This Thin Film Technology is also different from that used by the largest Thin Film Solar Player First Solar. This Thin Film Technology has the highest Solar Cell Efficiency and a number of established companies like TSMC, Q-Cells, Honda and startups like Miasole, Nanosolar, Solyndra are using this technology. However its production is not easy as four different materials are used. Miasole has been claiming to have achieved an efficiency of 13.8%. General range is between 11-14%. Note Solar Shingles being sold by Dow and Uni Solar also use this technology as its weight is much lower than normal silicon solar panels.CIGs Technology is also used in making flexible thin solar panels which can be used for camping, BIPV and other applications where weight is an issue. The CIS or CIGs Technology is used by a number of other companies like  Saint Gobain- Hyundai, TSMC, Miasole, OerlikonSolar, the now bankrupt Solyndra and Nanosolar.

Solar Frontier Solar Panels Efficiency

Solar Frontier claims 11.5% efficiency for its CIS modules which are expected to go upto 14% by 2014. The Company has claimed an efficiency of 17.2% for its Solar Panels made in the Lab.

Comparison

Solar Panel Manufactures have increased tremendously in the last four five years. You can look at various other biggest and best solar panel producers in the world here to get an idea about the options you have in the market. Sanyo Solar Panels should be bought if you are looking for a premium product which occupies less space and gives high efficiency. The price that you have to pay for a Sanyo Solar Panel is almost double that of normal solar panel from mainstream silicon panel producers. There are cheap solar panels from China, if space is not a constraint and you are not looking for the absolute best quality in the market. Due to these reasons, the Chinese solar panel manufacturers are giving tough competition to the Japanese Solar Panel Manufacturers.

 

 

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Sneha Shah

I am Sneha, the Editor-in-chief for the Blog. We would be glad to receive suggestions, inputs & comments on GWI from you guys to keep it going! You can contact me for consultancy/trade inquires by writing an email to greensneha@yahoo.in or call me on +913340606492.

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