Leading CIS thin-film PV module manufacturer, Solar Frontier reported its first annual profit in 2013, fuelled by the boom in the Japanese market.
Showa Shell Sekiyu, a subsidiary of Dutch Royal Shell reported its Energy Solution Business, which contains Solar Frontier, reported net sales of JPY141.2 billion (US$1.38 billion), up 80.4% from the previous fiscal year, and an operating income of JPY17.5 billion (US$171.7 million), up JPY32.9 billion compared with the previous fiscal year.
Profitability for the first time for Solar Frontier was said to have been due to increased module shipments, operating at full capacity and manufacturing cost reductions of 20%.
Solar Frontier’s main Kunitomi Plant (900MW nameplate capacity) was said to have operated at full capacity from the start of 2013, while its Miyazaki with an annual production capacity of 60MW also resumed production in July 2013.
Module shipments in the fourth quarter of 2013 approached 300MW, up from around 200MW shipped in the previous quarter. In the first nine months of 2013, Solar Frontier had surpassed total shipments achieved in 2012.
Over 90% of total shipments in 2013 were targeted for the Japanese market with a focus on residential, commercial and utility-scale (mega solar) markets.
Solar Frontier plans to increase its focus on the Japanese residential market in 2014, after launching lighter weight modules and a new roof mounting system to reduce installation times and balance of system costs.
The company also plans to focus on the smaller industrial systems market in Japan on the expectation of feed-in tariff reductions as well as continue to strengthen its market share in the utility-scale sector. The company is therefore continuing to focus the majority of its sales on the Japanese market in 2014.
However, the previously announced 150MW next-generation Tohoku plant was said to be key to Solar Frontier’s planned expansion of overseas business when the facility comes online in 2015 and would also serve as the company’s blueprint for future manufacturing facilities outside of Japan.