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Solar Frontier – Can this Japanese Copper Indium Selenium (CIS) Player Erode the Chinese Crystalline Silicon Dominance

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Solar Frontier Signs Deal with Two Global Heavyweights

Solar Frontier which was earlier known as Showa Shell Solar is starting to big moves in the Solar Panel Market.The Company has recently signed Two Deals with 2 Global Heavyweights GE and IBM.It has signed a distribution deal with GE to sells its Copper Indium Selenide (CIS) Panels in USA while GE would provides the Balance of Systems compoenents like inverters etc.It next signed a deal with IBM to jointly develop Copper Zinc Tin Sulfure Selenium (CZTS) Thin Fim Technology.Note IBM is one of the biggest Technology Innovators and Solar Frontier has a long Thin Film History.While the efficiency of CZTS currently at 9.6% seems slow,it holds a lot of future potential as the mainstream CIGS technology uses rare metals like indium.Large scale usage will lead of price escalation of indium.On the other hand copper,zinc,sulfur and tin are cheap and easily available.

Solar Frontier Expansion and Competition

Solar Frontier is a subsidiary of Showa Shell Sekiyu and is listed on the Japanese Stock Exchange.The Company has big plans for the Solar Energy Market planning to increase its capacity by more than 10 times in 2011 to around 1 Gw in total.All its 3 plants are located in Miyazaki in Japan and uses previous plasma plant of Hitachi.Solar Frontier claims 11.5% efficiency for its CIS modules which are expected to go upto 14% by 2014.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.Note Thin Film Competition is hotting up with Saint Gobain-Hyundai,TSMC,Miasole,Oerlikon Solar,Sharp,Nanosolar all making plans for huge capacity expansion in the next couple of years.Solar Frontier has signed some small deals for supplying 1-3 MW in Thailand,Japan and Australia Recently.However the cost structure of the company is not known till now just like Sharp.While Solar Frontier looks good on the capacity and partnerships front,it has still to prove itself on costs to really push the Chinese Solar Companies which are dominating the Solar  Scene right now with their low cost polysilicon panel production.Note 60% of the Solar Panel Production in  Q210 was estimated to be done by Chinese based manufacturers.

Showa Shell Solar (Solar Frontier from April) to Construct 900MW CIS Module Plant in Miyazaki, Japan

Showa Shell Sekiyu K.K and its 100% subsidiary Showa Shell Solar K.K., with its headquarters in Tokyo, have announced plans to construct a 900MW CIS photovoltaic (PV) plant in Miyazaki, Japan. Design and construction work will start immediately with full operations commencing in 2011. Showa Shell Group will invest approximately US$1 billion in the new plant. Together with the first and second plants already in operation, Showa Shell Solar’s total annual production capacity will be approximately 1 gigawatt. Showa Shell Solar is currently the world’s largest CIS PV module manufacturer, and this significant expansion solidifies the company’s market-leading position.Showa Shell Group’s industry-leading CIS research and development work dates back to 1993. Its CIS modules have achieved the world’s highest efficiency among thin-film technology, more than 13%, using actual production-size modules. The company believes CIS is the most promising technology among all the thin-film photovoltaic applications, with additional potential for improving efficiency and lowering the cost of production.


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

2 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. gerald martinez

    The Japanese led Copper Indium Selenide CIS panel is a big welcome for the world hungry for power. Innovation like this is a must for the solar industry to grow in a global scale. People of the world should have access to free energy from the sun regardless he is in the poorest of poor countries in the world.