Japanese PV panel maker Kyocera has inaugurated its first project as an independent power producer in the US, a 1.6MW installation in Madison School District, Phoenix, Arizona.

Its subsidiary, Kyocera Solar, developed and financed the deal through its own in-house power purchase agreement programme, another first for the company.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held by Madison School District and Kyocera Solar to inaugurate the project, which features 6,400 Kyocera panels across three systems at Madison One middle school and an elementary school, Rose Lane. Installation was carried out by Phoenix company SKY Engineering.

The installed PV generation capacity is expected to save Madison School District over US$100,000 in utility costs, offsetting over 60% of annual energy use at the two schools. The 1.6MW systems will have an output of 2,600MWh per year, equivalent to the energy consumption of 200 Arizona households.

The move to developing and financing a project as a power producer represents a further expansion into the US market for Kyocera, which began as a ceramics company in Kyoto, Japan (Kyocera: Kyoto + Ceramics) in 1959 and diversified into electronic components and later into solar power project development in Japan.

More recently the Kyocera Group parent company launched Kyocera Solar. Kyocera Solar has regional sales offices in Australia and Brazil, in addition to its headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona. Kyocera Solar’s module manufacturing facilities are located in Tijuana, Mexico at Kyocera Mexicana.

In addition to manufacturing and distributing panels, Kyocera Group has previously developed and financed projects in Japan including a recently completed 70MW PV power station in the southern city of Kagoshima, the largest solar power plant in Japan to date. Kyocera recently announced that in the 2014 fiscal year the company expects to ship over 1.2GW of solar modules worldwide, an increase of over 50% from FY2013 figures.

Kyocera Solar claims that combining development and financing with provision of its own modules to projects allows the company to offer competitive rates to PPA customers. Steve Hill, president of Kyocera Solar, said: “Everyone is obsessed with driving down the cost per watt in a solar system, but the cost of financing also has a significant impact on the customer’s cost per kilowatt-hour. When you combine Kyocera’s premium product, systems engineering expertise and attractive financing, you have an unbeatable combination.”