Sharp overtakes First Solar as revenue tops US$2.2 billion in 2009

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Having announced in February revenue of US$2,066.2 million in 2009, thin-film leader First Solar was crowned the number-one photovoltaics manufacturer by revenue for the first time. It also shipped over 1GW in modules, the first PV company to reach that milestone. However, First's time in the top slot would seem to have been short lived, as Sharp retook the position after issuing revenue of 208.7 billion yen (US$2.214bn), up 32.8% over the previous year. Sharp had, until 2007, been the largest PV producer in the world.

Sharp said that demand in Europe coupled to a recovery in demand in Japan due to a government scheme introduced for selling surplus solar-power electricity to utility companies were responsible for the increase in revenue.

Importantly, after being out of step with other major competitors that were adding significant capacity to meet demand in recent years, Sharp increased production to 792MW in 2009, up approximately 90% over the previous fiscal year.

Although Sharp didn’t breakout its actual shipment levels for the year, market research firm Navigant Consulting had recently reported shipment figures for Sharp of 535MW for 2009, ranking the company third largest, behind First Solar and Suntech.

Although both production and shipment levels were well below those of First Solar, Sharp predominantly shipped c-Si modules in 2009, which have higher selling prices than many thin-film technologies.

Sharp noted that because demand for its solar products was ‘growing extremely rapidly,’ it would be focusing on capacity expansions and improving conversion efficiency through its proprietary technologies.

The company is also putting more emphasis on sales in the commercial and utility markets than it has ever done before. This is believed to be due to the ramp of its thin-film solar plant in Sakai, which started shipments to customers in April, according to the company.

For fiscal 2010, Sharp said it expected sales of solar cells of 250 billion yen, up 19.8% over the previous year, and a production volume of 1200MW, up approximately 50% over the previous fiscal year.

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