Utility-scale projects driving Japan’s PV module demand

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Shipments of PV modules for use in large-scale projects in Japan rose by 45% in the first quarter of the 2014 Japanese financial year, according to figures released this morning.

A statement and series of tables published by the Japan Photovoltaic Energy Association (JPVEA), a loosely-formed trade body, show figures for the period from April to July this year. Japan’s financial year begins at the end of March. JPVEA took a sample of 47 manufacturers, both domestic and foreign and asked them for statistics on their shipments to date.

JPVEA received replies from 39 of those companies, which include Japanese names such as Kyocera and Panasonic Sanyo alongside foreign competitors and their subsidiaries such as Hanwha Q Cells, Renesola Japan and Trina Solar Japan.

Within the Japanese domestic market, shipments of modules to the residential market stood at 86% of the equivalent period last year – in other words a 14% decrease in volume. Meanwhile non-residential projects used 162% of the volume of modules delivered in the same period last year. Residential module shipments totalled 493,478kW, while non-residential projects used 1,388,305kW of modules. This figure for non-residential shipments includes 657,144kW of modules from power generators of over 500kW for the purpose of selling electricity, i.e. utility-scale, which saw the aforementioned 45% rise.

Module exports from Japan accounted for just 2% of the whole market, signalling strong domestic demand as well as highlighting the relative expense of Japanese modules compared to their Chinese counterparts. 

In a recent interview with PV Tech, Dr Hiroshi Matsukawa of analysis firm RTS PV said that he expected utility-scale projects to drive strong near-term demand for solar modules, as developers rushed to complete projects that have been approved and not built. It is also expected that the feed-in tariff (FiT) offered in Japan will fall again in April of next year. Matsukawa said that he expected the backlog of unbuilt projects to continue to drive the construction of large scale projects over the next two years at least. Matsukawa said however that the future, especially the period that will follow 2017 when Japan’s FiT scheme is expected to finish, should be the Japanese PV industry’s “most pressing concern”.

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