Sharp reports its solar division is still on a “growth curve”

In a recent statement prior to Intersolar Europe, which ended last week, Executive Vice President for Sharp Solar Europe said: “The age of the box movers is over. The future belongs to the Solar Service Providers.” Highlighting how important the solar sector is to the Japanese multinational, Peter Thiele said his company’s solar sales had risen by 27.2% between 2009 and 2010.
Sharp reports its solar division is still on a “growth curve”

Fukushima, the phase-out of nuclear power, the energy revolution – when Intersolar, the world’s biggest trade fair for solar energy and technology, kicked off at the beginning of June, the event came at a time when the solar industry finds itself at the heart of the current debate on the energy supply of the future.

In addition to the challenges for society as a whole, the solar industry itself is also now in the process of ambitious market transformation. Modified feed-in tariffs, full warehouses, changing political conditions, new markets and technologies all combine to generate a dynamic impetus that is bringing long-term transformations to the market.

With its four‑point “Think global, act local” strategy, solar pioneer Sharp has undertaken structural and financial investments that put the company in an ideal position to meet the future challenges of the photovoltaic market. The solar sector is one of the company’s core business activities, and has been expanding at a breath-taking rate over the last few years.

With an overall accumulated power capacity of four GW from its manufactured solar cells and modules, Sharp is one of the leading solar companies in the world. In the financial year 2010 alone, Sharp sold a total capacity of 1,240 MW of solar cells, with 1,000 MW in the form of polycrystalline and monocrystalline cells and 240 MW from thin-film solar cells. The share of solar in Sharp’s overall turnover rose from 7.6% in 2009 to 8.8% in 2010, representing an increase of 27.2% in sales.

“In the last financial year, Europe, with 44% was our biggest sales market for solar products, followed by Japan with 33% and the USA with 15%. In 2010, sales of solar cells and modules accounted for 39% of the company’s overall turnover in Europe. The biggest individual share of these sales went to Italy with 35%, followed by Germany with 27% and the UK with 13.5 per cent. This clearly shows the importance of this sector for our company in Europe,” explains Peter Thiele, Executive Vice President Sharp Energy Solutions Europe.

Seeing energy revolution as an opportunity

The Fukushima nuclear reactor catastrophe in Japan and its lasting consequences have triggered a review and even a total rethink of the question of our future energy supply. Worldwide, countries are putting their energy strategies back under the microscope. Renewable energies, in particular solar energy, are the alternative.

“What we are experiencing today is a period of fundamental change in the energy market. It is no longer a mere hype debate but concerns deep-reaching transformations in how we wish to produce and consume energy in future,” continues Thiele. “This has clear consequences for the solar industry. Given tough price competition, dynamic tariff conditions in Europe and the permanent pressure of innovation, companies will only be able to survive if they are flexible, technologically innovative, credible and close enough to the market. The age of the box movers is over. The future belongs to the Solar Service Providers,” predicts Thiele.

“Think global, act local”

To maintain its capability to respond effectively to the challenges of the solar markets and to expand and influence them even more strongly in future, Sharp has established a four-point strategy: expansion of production, increased market proximity, further development of sales models and value-added chains and strengthening of brand awareness. Over the last few months, Sharp has therefore undertaken a series of structural changes and financial investments. These measures will guarantee its strong position in the solar market of the future and will help to underpin Sharp’s orientation as a “solar service provider”.

“With the world’s first gigawatt solar factory in Sakai, we currently have the world’s most modern cell and module production facility and can therefore further increase our efficiency and achieve cost reductions. In addition, we operate on the principle of “local production for local consumption” and have doubled the capacity of our solar module factory in Wrexham in Wales to a present value of 500 MW. Currently, Wrexham produces 8,800 modules per day for the European market,” explains Thiele. Sharp will also be opening a solar factory in Sicily in late summer in the framework of its 3Sun consortium with ENEL. This factory will not only produce modules for the South-European market but will also mark Sharp’s introduction with its 3Sun partners as a supplier of electricity from solar power stations.

“To support this new strategic orientation, back in 2008 we had already established a specific division “Sharp Energy Solution Europe”, which manages our European solar business centrally from Hamburg. With the aid of this division, we have been able to set up a sales and distribution structure that is both solid and flexible. We are now extending this structure with additional services and locally adapted sales offers. One example is our Web Shop, which has been highly successful in selling our PV kits all over Europe and also in providing local installers with complete, all-inclusive solar power solutions that help them save both time and money,” continues Thiele.

The fact that the market has now completed its transformation from a demand-driven to a supply‑driven basis means that the question of brand awareness and image is increasingly moving to the centre of attention. Quality and services have become key deciding factors for potential customers, and their significance is closely dependent on the strength and credibility of a particular brand. “As a solar pioneer and supplier of high quality, we can look back on more than 50 years of solar experience. As a result, our brand and its associated promises of performance and quality inspire a sense of confidence, safety and benchmark guidance in the minds of partners, installers and end users. To achieve even greater awareness of our brand, we have become UEFA EUROTOP partner and will be giving the coming 100-year anniversary of the existence of Sharp a fitting celebration with the UEFA EURO 2012 championship in Poland and Ukraine," concludes Thiele.

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