Japan Solar Shipments May Jump 10-Fold, Industry Group Says

Japanese domestic shipments of solar panels may increase by as much as 10 times in “a fairly short period” after the government approved renewable energy subsidies, a solar industry group’s chairman said.

“Legislation passed today will secure purchase of power generated by solar panels for a long time period,” Mikio Katayama, chairman of the Japan Photovoltaic Energy Association, told reporters in Tokyo today. “That will help a rapid expansion of industry-use and utility-use solar systems.”

The legislation allows for a “feed-in tariff” or incentives that guarantee above-market rates for producers of wind, solar and geothermal energy. The subsidies are part of government efforts to cut Japan’s reliance on atomic energy after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami led to radiation leaks from a nuclear power plant.

Domestic solar battery shipments are about 1 gigawatt a year in Japan, compared with 8 gigawatts in Germany, said Katayama, who is also the president of Sharp Corp., Japan’s biggest maker of photovoltaic cells.

Panel shipments gained 31 percent from a year earlier to 258.6 megawatts in the three months ended June, according to the association. Residential-use systems accounted for about 87 percent of the shipments during the quarter.

When implemented in Germany and Spain, feed-in tariffs boosted installations of solar panels.

Renewable energy, including solar accounted for 2.9 percent of Japan’s power generation in 2010, compared with 15 percent in Germany, according to the International Energy Agency.

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