Japan’s so-called feed-in-tariff prices, set June 18, “have boosted the interest of individuals and business owners in using their rooftops or unused fields for solar-power generation,” Kazuhiro Yoshida, who heads the Osaka-based company’s solar business, said in an interview yesterday.
Panasonic may boost its panel production to as much as 800 megawatts in the fiscal year ending March 2014 from an estimated 600 megawatts this fiscal year, Yoshida said.
The company and rival panel makers including Sharp Corp. (6753) and Kyocera Corp. (6971) stand to benefit as the program starts next month. Utilities will pay 42 yen (53 cents) a kilowatt-hour for 20 years to solar-power producers, almost twice the rate in Germany, the world’s biggest market by panel installations. Panasonic is increasing its focus on solar energy after posting a record loss of 772 billion yen last fiscal year as the yen gained and prices for its televisions fell.
The maker of HIT panels is increasing its production capacity of solar cells to 900 megawatts by the end of next fiscal year from 600 megawatts currently by opening a new plant in Malaysia in December. Panasonic is sticking with a 2010 plan to boost production capacity to 1.5 gigawatts by March 2016, Yoshida said.
Solar-product sales in Japan will probably climb to 80 percent of revenue at the renewable energy business this fiscal year from 67 percent in the 12 months ended March 31, Yoshida said earlier this month. The company expects to keep margins for the solar business at about 10 percent this year, he said June 19.
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