Sharp Corp. announced Nov. 29 a $200 million investment in solar cells as manufacturers compete for a slice of the burgeoning market for alternative energy products. Sharp will spend about 22 billion yen on a 10-fold expansion in production of thin-film solar cells, which it said use only about one hundredth of the silicon raw material used in conventional crystalline solar cells. They can be made more quickly and cheaply than conventional solar cells, and offer better power generation in hot regions, the company said. The technology could be used in windows and on wall surfaces of homes and buildings in the future, and can generate electricity by day and illumination at night, it added.
Sharp's solar cell business has suffered from a shortage of silicon that has driven up prices of the raw material, prompting the company to seek ways to make the manufacturing process more efficient.
Rival firms such as Sanyo are also investing in solar power as they seek to tap growing interest in alternative energy amid sky-high oil prices and increasing demand for power in fast-expanding emerging nations.
Japan prides itself on being a leader in energy saving technology, a crucial area for the world's second largest economy which relies heavily on Middle East oil to power its factories, homes and offices.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007