Kyocera Corp. will double its manufacturing capacity from 240 megawatts (MW) to 500 MW by end of March 2011, the company announced April 18.
"For the last two years, as we endured a shortage of solar-grade silicon, Kyocera has focused on improving solar-cell quality and energy conversion efficiency," stated Tatsumi Maeda, general manager of the company's Corporate Solar Energy Group. "Among the world's fully integrated suppliers that manage every stage of the process, from casting silicon ingot to engineering and supplying complete solar electric generating systems, our goal is to lead the industry in both quality and quantity."
Kyocera currently holds the world record for energy conversion efficiency in 15x15cm polycrystalline silicon solar cells, at 18.5%.
"The U.S. is experiencing phenomenal public interest in, and acceptance of, solar electricity," said Steve Hill, president of Kyocera Solar, Inc., the operating headquarters for Kyocera's solar energy business in the Americas and Australia. "The majority of Americans want clean energy developed into an affordable, mainstream resource. Kyocera, with its 32-year commitment to this effort, is aggressively adding capacity both at our North American facilities and globally to meet this ever-increasing demand."
The new raw material contracts will allow the company to expand capacity throughout its quadripartite global manufacturing network for solar modules, which includes plants in Yohkaichi and Ise, Japan; Tijuana, Mexico; Kadan, Czech Republic; and Tianjin, China. Kyocera will invest an estimated 30 billion yen (US$ $250 million) in plants and equipment throughout this network during the course of the expansion effort.
Increased solar energy production will help offset the negative effects of electricity generated by fossil fuels -- including carbon dioxide, a suspected contributor to global warming; nitrous oxide, which has been linked to the destruction of the Earth's ozone layer; and sulfur dioxide, the principal contributor to acid rain.
Solar energy is Kyocera's fastest growing business. As a measure of growth, the combined output of all Kyocera solar energy manufacturing from 1975 to 2006 totaled approximately 760 megawatts of solar modules. This result, in terms of "greenhouse gases avoided," is equivalent to the environmental impact of approximately 220 square miles of healthy forest. While that achievement took 31 years to attain, Kyocera's planned production capacity by 2011 will be comparable to giving the Earth 220 new square miles of forest about every 18 months.
As another metric, the 500-megawatt capacity would allow Kyocera to build complete 3.5-kilowatt solar electric generating systems for 142,800 new homes each year.