Sharp, Enel deal targets cost savings, global reach

Dec. 1, 2008 – A deal between Japan’s Sharp Corp. and Italy’s largest power company, Enel SpA, to produce both solar cells and modules will help Sharp deepen its reach in Europe’s end-markets while slashing shipment costs and protecting against currency valuations, according to local media analysis.

The multifaceted deal involves setting up a JV in Rome with Enel in the spring of 2009, which will spawn an unidentified number of PV plants in southern Italy generating 189MW capacity by 2012; investment for this venture will be ¥100B. The two also plan to expand operations as an “independent power producer” (IPP) throughout the Mediterranean region.

A second thrust involves a “cooperative manufacturing business” in Italy with Enel and an unnamed European manufacturing company to produce thin-film solar cells. This plant will start in mid-2010 with about 480MW capacity with an eventual ramp to 1GW.

In a statement, Sharp noted the deal is part of a plan to create a “solar business model” by joining with a power company in an integrated business approach, from manufacture of thin-film solar cells to IPP activities. This JV leverages Italy’s leadership in a European Union project dubbed “Mediterranean solar plan” (involving 27 EU companies and 16 non-EU nations in the Middle East and Africa) to develop sufficient power generating facilities to provide 20GW solar capacity by 2020.

Sharp currently has one operational solar cell facility in Katsuragi, Nara Prefecture, with annual production capacity of 710MW; a second 480MW plant in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, is slated to come online in the spring of 2010, notes the Nikkei daily. With the addition of the new Italian JV, Sharp’s total production capacity will spike to 1.7GW, on par with market leader Q-Cells of Germany, with goals to push to 6GW/year by utilizing similar partnerships outside Italy.

The Sharp/Enel partnership also pits Sharp in direct competition against some former partners in Japan and the US, including Ulvac and Applied Materials, notes the Nikkei Business Daily. Back in Feb. of this year Sharp announced a pact with Tokyo Electron (TEL) to build thin-film CVD tools for thin-film PV, expanding an alliance that started in Sharp’s core LCD operation, notes the paper. Main competitors to TEL include Applied Materials and Ulvac, who have previously supplied LCD tools to Sharp and are now moving into solar-cell manufacturing equipment. Ulvac is now working with Taiwan’s NexPower Technology to help boost its solar-cell conversion rate to a competitive 9%, while Applied plans to offer tools capable of processing 5.7m2 panels (4× the size of Sharp’s) with 10% efficiencies, the paper notes.

Source: Nikkei Business Daily


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