Sharp Corp., already one of the world’s largest producers of silicon solar cells, recently announced that they would be bringing next generation thin film solar cells to the US market in August 2009. The Sharp thin film modules are made with less than 1 percent of the amount of silicon used in traditional silicon photovoltaic solar cells – while this makes the cells much cheaper than silicon cells, they also produce less electricity per solar panel. The Sharp thin film cells are currently running at 9% efficiency. Therefore, Sharp is targeting its cells for ‘utility-scale solar panel arrays”, not residential projects.
Sharp is in heavy competition with First Solar, with their 10.5% efficiency thin-film cells. While First Solar has been ramping up production and expects to produce cells at the rate of 1 gigawatt per year by the end of 2009, Sharp has been ramping up their production capabilities too. They produced only 15 megawatts of thin film a year ago, but they expect to be at the 1 gigawatt per year rate by March 2010 which is when their new plant in Sakai City in Osaka opens.