Panasonic ramps up HIT lines by 150MW to hit 1GW production capacity milestone

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Consumer electronics and PV materials manufacturer Panasonic will invest ¥9.5 billion (US$79 million) to expand its solar cell and module production lines in its home country of Japan by 150MW a year.

The planned expansion, announced by Panasonic Corporation this morning, will take the company’s production lines for its HIT series of modules up to a total of 1GW capacity, including output from a factory in Malaysia. The new additions will be at Panasonic’s solar cells factory in Shimane, south west Japan, and its module assembly lines in Shiga, just east of Japan’s ancient capital Kyoto.

Panasonic’s HIT modules are comprised of monocrystalline and amorphous silicon heterojunction cells. Apparently Shimane and Shiga will see a combined increase of 150MW per year in productivity between them, although the company did not detail how this will be apportioned between the two. Those additions are expected to be completed in March 2016.

The corporation said it continues to see strong demand from Japan for both residential and non-residential PV applications. Recent government efforts to support net zero energy housing is a big contributor to this, with Panasonic also investing time and money into the area of solutions for the home, including home energy managements systems (HEMS), which Panasonic has branded SMARTHEMS. This integrates solar, storage batteries, heat pumps and other components.

Also, earlier this year at PV Expo trade show in Japan, PV Tech was given a briefing on some of Panasonic’s new and planned ranges of products for the domestic market, with a strong emphasis on the residential segment. Of particular interest was a central junction box system (display pictured) which is being prepared for Japan’s deregulated energy market, which has been promised for some time and is planned to become reality starting in 2016.

In Tokyo, PV Tech was shown a Panasonic energy management system which actively seeks out the cheapest purchase price of electricity to buy into the household. Conversely, the system also works out where to sell PV-generated electricity to at the most attractive price from the system’s battery. As seen in the picture, the system also includes a number of novel features, such as a colourful display designed to educate families on energy use which represents the household’s energy supply and demand in cartoon penguin form. Internationally of course, the company is also Tesla's partner on its battery pack production.

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