As far as the the Japanese market is concerned, the information EnergyTrend gathers at PV EXPO 2012 indicates optimistic outlook. Compared to Germany’s pale outlook following the recent drastic subsidy cut, Japan’s solar market is looking up due to the existing subsidy and the increasing post-earthquake demand for emergency power, not to mention the “Law on Special Measures Concerning Procurement of Renewable Energy Sourced Electricity by Electric Utilities” becoming effective in July 2012.
The Japanese participating companies exhibit products with different features, including household high efficiency solar module, household solar solution integrated with energy storage systems and high efficiency mono-like products suitable for power plants. On account of the optimism, Japan’s 2012 installed capacity is expected to exceed that in 2011; helped by household and large power plants’ increasing demand, the installed capacity will amount to approximately 2,000MW.
However, Japanese market’s demand is still relatively small compared to Germany, Italy, China and the United States. Due to the fact that Japanese companies hold the bulk of the market share in Japan, little chance remains for the foreign companies to make inroads into Japan. Therefore, despite the promising prospects, given the small market share, the companies able to most adequately cater to Japanese consumers’ needs will most likely enjoy success in the end.
Due to the fact that Japanese consumers highly value the product quality and the after-sales service, the Japanese market has always been more of a self-contained market; most demands are supplied by the Japanese major makers, which makes it harder for the foreign companies to break in. However, the Japanese market mainly focuses on the solar roof systems, whose development path can serve as an example for other countries which are on the way to a wide adoption of solar roof system.
According to EnergyTrend’s survey, Japan has several emphases with respect to solar roof, such as high efficiency mono-Si module, refined product design and low acceptance of crystalline solar cell. On the other hand, single-color solar modules are better received in Japan. For instance, CIS thin film maker SOLAR FRONTIER launches black solar roof system, which is quite popular in Japan. As for the module design, a number of makers introduce modules that cater to the roofs of regular Japanese households; the modules are compatible with the shape of the roof and will not appear odd after installed. Further, as opposed to the European and American modules which require machines and tools during installation, Japanese solar roof systems are lighter and easier to install.
The solar power market’s development mainly hinges upon two sectors: solar roof system and large power plant. The direction the solar market is heading depends on the subsidy policy. As countries with mature solar markets start cutting their solar subsidies and stop subsidizing large solar systems, solar roof system will become the main focus of the solar market. Once the solar power market reaches grid parity, household solar system will become an even more popular choice. The development of the Japanese market reflects the future trend of the global solar market. Given that the solar roof system is a B2C market, brand awareness, warranty, maintenance, customized service and easy monitor system will become crucial to every country as far as the development of solar system is concerned.