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Solar Frontier Will Wind Down Its PV Module Manufacturing Business

published: 2021-10-29 9:30

Major Japanese petroleum refiner Idemitsu announced on October 12 that its PV product manufacturing subsidiary Solar Frontier will begin winding down the operation of its production base in Miyazaki Prefecture. By the middle of next year, Solar Frontier will have completely ceased module production. The stated reason for abandoning the PV module business is the competition from foreign imports. Chinese module suppliers have been gaining market share in Japan by offering lower-priced products, thereby putting more and more operational pressure on Solar Frontier over time.

According to the coverage of the event by other media outlets, the Miyazaki base has an annual production capacity of 6 million pieces. Despite phasing out in-house production, Solar Frontier will continue to sell its own branded modules. However, the manufacturing of its products will be outsourced to other companies.

Established in 2006, Solar Frontier is noted for being one of few developers of thin-film PV cells. Its copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS or CIS) cells are relatively safer to use compared with the cadmium telluride (CdTe) cells developed by rivals such as First Solar in the US. Also, the Miyazaki base, which came online in 2011, was at one time the world’s largest manufacturing hub for thin-film cells.

Idemitsu said that from this point forward Solar Frontier will concentrate on providing services such as designing PV power plants, EPC, and O&M. Idemitsu released a restructuring plan for Solar Frontier on the same day of announcing the end of module production. According to the plan, the R&D of thin-film cells will continue.

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