KYOCERA Corporation: Solar Modules
Solar power generation uses solar cells, or modules, to capture the energy from sunlight and turn it into electricity. Solar power generation has several distinct advantages: it can help to alleviate energy demand during the peak daytime period and to reduce carbon emissions associated with energy generation, and is an exciting growth industry in today’s societies as they try to become lower carbon.
The solar energy market has seen the participating of numerous new manufacturers in recent years, as global demand continues to grow steadily; we have now reached the most competitive age for the solar cell manufacturing industry.
Mass production has expanded exponentially; according to the May 2011 issue of PV NEWS by Greentech Media, Inc., the total production volume for 2010 was 110% of that of 2009. The European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) predicts that, by 2015, solar cells will be providing around 131–196 GW globally*.
The top ten companies in this global market, however, between them account for less than 50% of the total, and it is expected that many more companies will join—and some will retire from—the increasingly competitive solar cell market in the next few years.
KYOCERA has been a leading contributor and innovator in this market since its very beginnings.
The oil shock in the 1970s prompted KYOCERA to begin research and development into solar cell technology in 1975, and by 1982 it had succeeded in the mass production of its multicrystalline silicon solar cell.
KYOCERA has continued to roll out innovative, high quality, high performance products that have been the key to its formidable position in the solar cell market. The entire manufacturing process for this cell—from silicon casting through to completion of the finished solar module—was and continues to be conducted entirely in-house. This integrated system of production has allowed KYOCERA to focus on and improve its technology and product quality, and has ensured it is capable of always manufacturing high quality, high performance products that have kept it at the forefront of the market.
* “Global Market Outlook for Photovoltaics until 2015” European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA). May 2011. p. 39.
KYOCERA’s Green Energy: Keeping the World Moving
From the start of the 1980s, KYOCERA has been committed to the provision of electricity to regions with no alternative access to power, providing power both for everyday household needs and for devices used in the farming and fishing that support such regions.
In January 2011, a KYOCERA solar cell was the very first to pass strict new testing standards drawn up by TÜV Rheinland, a German testing agency. The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), a body responsible for setting general standards in the industry, uses a separate module for each stage of testing. The TÜV Rheinland test, however, re-uses the same module for all four of its tests: high temperature and humidity, temperature cycle, condensation and freezing, and bypass diode. The KYOCERA solar module passed each of these four tests, becoming the first solar cell in the world to pass this strictest of tests. This unprecedented success underlines the quality of KYOCERA products.
KYOCERA solar modules are used in a selected model of the Toyota Prius, the world’s most recognized hybrid car model. These solar modules are used in the roof-mounted solar ventilation system, in which energy generated during the daytime when the car is parked is used to drive a fan that ventilates the car, preventing the inside from becoming overheated during periods of hot weather.
KYOCERA developed a new module for the Prius, optimized to the design of the roof, and used stand-alone technology to improve the power generation efficiency of the module, creating ridges on the surface. These ridges minimize reflection, and the cell itself is an attractive navy blue in color. The overall result is a beautiful yet functional solar cell. Again, this is the result of a production process that is fully integrated and entirely in-house.
Mega-solar power generation is one of the most important business segments for KYOCERA today, and one in which it is performing well above expectation, in Japan as well as overseas. For example, to date, the company has supplied solar modules to three large-scale power plants in Spain, with a total output of more than 50 megawatts (MW). KYOCERA is also in the process of supplying solar modules to 34 solar farms in Thailand. The local operators of these plants have reported the electricity output for these plants to be around 15% greater than initial estimates, ensuring that KYOCERA’s reputation in this field will continue to improve.