Is Japan back on the map?

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2007 was not the best of years for Japanese PV manufacturers like
Sharp. Capacity ramps halted and government subsidies, previously
withdrawn, saw the market shrink in what had been the strongest region
in the world for PV.

Although Q-Cells is credited with capacity additions that saw the Germany-based PV manufacturer take the leadership position away from Sharp for the first time, Sharp virtually gave the number 1 spot away as it failed to secure polysilicon supply for continued expansion.

Why that happened is open to debate, but some insiders think that Sharp gambled on UMG silicon suppliers that didn’t materialise.

However, the two events pointed to a potential shift in the industry, one which would see companies such as Q-Cells, Suntech and First Solar take an increasingly larger market share away from the likes of of Sharp as these more focused companies ramped capacity more aggressively and in lower cost regions than Japan.

It would now seem that the Japanese Government has also taken notice of the shift, according to a Reuters story. Citing an unnamed senior government official, Reuters noted that new subsidies could be introduced next year to support PV, its manufacturers and equipment suppliers going forward.

If we do see such subsidies return it will be a boon to Japan directly and positive for the industry as a whole.

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