Thankfully, PVTEC Marks 20th Anniversary. We Are Fully Ready to Assume Key Role in Photovoltaic Power Generation after Fukushima Nuclear Disaster.
Last year (FY 2010), we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Photovoltaic Power Generation Technology Research Association (PVTEC). A full-scale utilization of photovoltaic power generation, for which we were founded, is expected in the very near future. PVTEC started with 23 member companies, has enjoyed greater cooperation and tremendous support, and has grown to be approximately three times larger with a record number of 65 member companies (as of May 2011). Thus, we are ready to strongly promote the R&D of industrial technologies for photovoltaic (PV) cells in Japan. We deeply appreciate the support from the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), and the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO, Japan). We also greatly appreciate the fact that some universities, the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST, Japan), other public institutes, many concerned parties, and our member companies have cooperated and have responded to the support from METI and NEDO.
Huge Increase in PV Cell Production
PVNews (a U.S. periodical concerning the solar industry) reports that the global production of PV cells exceeded 23.9 GW in 2010. It was approximately 2.4 times more than the 2009 production of 10 GW, marking a huge increase. The Japanese production of PV cells also rebounded due to effective government subsidies, and showed a 45% increase from the previous year. Japanese businesses, however, have kept losing their share in the world because foreign companies, especially Chinese and Taiwanese companies have been growing far more rapidly. We must strive for the recovery of the world's largest production by leveraging our high capability of developing technologies. To achieve our aim, PVTEC started two major activities last year.
Formation of Consortium for Further Development of Thin-film Silicon Solar Cells
One of the major activities that we started last year was to form a consortium with AIST and six of our members that are thin-film silicon solar cell manufacturers. We mobilized all the leading organizations in Japan, launched a project outsourced from NEDO, and started the R&D of thin-film silicon solar cells. To create an environment in which we can do joint research with universities, we have also established a centralized research system at AIST in Tsukuba, Japan. All the Japanese researchers who are from AIST and our member companies have cooperated and will fight together in the R&D of thin-film silicon technologies to achieve higher performance and lower prices. We earnestly hope to achieve the world's best results.
Launch of Project Aiming at Longer Life Cycle and Higher Reliability of PV Power Generation System
As the other major activity, PVTEC and AIST launched another project outsourced from NEDO in order to do research targeting the higher reliability and longer life cycle of a PV cell system. One of the reasons why PV power generation is said to be costly is that the cost calculations are made based on the estimated system life cycle of 20 years. Currently, most manufacturers set the module life cycle at approximately 20 years. If the cycle can be extended to 40 years, the cost per capacity will be reduced by one half, which makes grid parity far more achievable. NEDO also aims to shorten the life cycle to 30 years.
A PV cell employs a photovoltaic effect produced by a semiconductor. The effect is a physical phenomenon, for which PV power generation can be considered semi-permanent in principle. To utilize the fundamental characteristic of a PV cell, and achieve the higher reliability and longer life cycle of the cell, we need cooperation from not only module manufacturers but also many other manufacturers including peripheral component manufacturers.
Like a module, the entire system including a power conditioner and a support structure must have a longer life cycle, and must show higher reliability. PVTEC consists of module manufacturers as well as many component manufacturers. In tandem with AIST and other research institutes, we will offer our members suggestions and advice on issues to be addressed and the scope of R&D, and will take action to achieve the longer life cycle and higher reliability of the entire system including modules. We have also decided to jointly launch a project supporting the standardization and validation of reliability with AIST, Japan Electrical Safety & Environment Technology Laboratories (JET), and the Saga prefectural government, which is a local municipal government in Japan.
Great significance is attached to the creation of the environment in which joint efforts can be made between Japanese businesses and research institutes to give higher reliability and a longer life cycle to a PV power generation system. We would like to express our appreciation for the cooperation of NEDO, METI, other concerned parties, and our members.
Essential Role of PV Power Generation after Great East Japan Earthquake
On March 11, 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred. It claimed numerous lives and caused enormous damage in the Tohoku region. It has also incurred significant loss on Japanese industries. Especially, the nuclear plant disaster has created a profound impact on energy issues in Japan and all over the world.
From now on, safe and clean renewable energy must be recognized as principal energy resources. As PV cells are the most promising application of renewable energy, PV power generation must become one of the fundamental methods for providing energy to Japan. As researchers and developers, we must assume a significant role, mission and responsibility.
In order to overcome the current energy crisis in Japan, we pledge to further develop our international competitiveness in PV power generation technologies, and to make PV power generation one of the Japanese key industries in cooperation with our members.
We look forward to your continuing support for PVTEC.