Update: Initial assessments of the Japanese earthquake show little impact on the PV supply chain

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Share on email
Email

UPDATE 2. Friday's 8.9-magnitude earthquake off the north-east coast of Japan was said by experts to be the largest to hit the country in over a century. A massive tsunami 10-metre (33-foot) high battered coastal towns and cities across the northeast coast with Sendai, north of Tokyo affected the most by the disaster. On Saturday, March 12, news of a hydrogen explosion at a nuclear power station on the coast in Fukushima and the potential for further deterioration dominated news channels around the globe.

As for the events' impact on the solar PV supply chain, initial reports indicate the effects have been minimal.

Like semiconductor fabs in Japan, many PV manufacturing plants would have automatically shut down equipment as a consequence of the initial earthquake. Damage assessments would be made before production would resume.

However, with significant aftershocks continuing, it is yet unknown whether plants would be operating, even intermittently during this time.

Some reports related to the semiconductor industry have noted that shutdowns at Sanyo, Sharp, and Panasonic plants in certain unidentified areas of the country had indeed been implemented, although no details existed which plants had been affected.

The northeast region has been impacted the most, mainly by the tsunami that followed the quake. Power to parts of the region is down, and intermittent power is being experienced in other northern regions.

With respect to the PV industry in the country, the majority of manufacturing operations are located in the south-central prefectures around Osaka and Kyoto as well as on the southernmost island of Kyushu, and would not seemed to have experienced major disruptions.

Much of Japan’s heavy industry shut down after the quake and reported few problems.

Corning was one of the first to make a public statement concerning glass-making operations, which include its facility in Sakai City near Osaka, home to Sharp’s new LCD and thin-film PV manufacturing facility.

Corning said that there had not been any employee injuries and that its operations in Japan had not been affected by the earthquake and tsunami. Glass-making operations were running normally, according to the company.

Today, Sharp itself issued a brief statement, confirming Corning’s earlier assessment, noting that:

“There are no extensive damages to our buildings or production facilities in Japan, including our plant located in Yaita-city, Tochigi Prefecture. Our LCD panel production facilities located in Sakai-city, Kameyama-city, Taki-cho, and Tenri-city are continuing normal operation.”

Sanyo on Friday was said to be assessing any potential damage but at the time of writing had not posted any statement on its website. (Note: See update 1 for more on Sanyo).

Checks made since the earthquake indicate that few PV manufacturers have made official statements concerning operations in Japan.

According to IHS iSuppli, few if any semiconductor manufacturers had been seriously affected by the quake. In a news flash to the media, the market research firm noted:

“The major impact on Japan’s semiconductor production is not likely to be direct damage to production facilities, but disruption to the supply chain. Suppliers are likely to encounter difficulties in getting raw materials supplied and distributed and shipping products out. This is likely to cause some disruption in semiconductor supplies from Japan during the next two weeks.”

This could also apply to the PV industry, especially in relation to materials required for production and to the export of modules.

Further updates will follow as further information becomes available. If readers have news of developments, please post these as comments to this story. 

UPDATE 1

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that AU Optronics has shut down its solar-wafer unit's production plant, M.Setek, in Sendai. “All our staff are safe,” an official with the company is quoted as saying. “But at this moment, we have no idea if there are any losses and when we will resume production, until we are able to get there and assess the situation.”

AUO also issued a statement, which said that it has established a Crisis Cabinet in its headquarters in Hsinchu, Taiwan, as well as in Tokyo.

Regarding the status of the M.Setek polysilicon plant in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, the company statement said the following:  “According to latest understanding for the time being, all employees and facilities remain safe and no major damage incurred by the earthquake and tsunami is reported. As to when the facilities resume operations will depend on the recovery status of the local infrastructure.”

“Emergency power systems had been switched on as grid power was lost, enabling basic power uses at the plant,” according to AUO.
 
Aaron Fowles of Sanyo told the Statesman Journal (an Oregon-based publication) that “all of the company's solar-cell operations are on the west side of Japan where damages weren't severe. Initial reports indicate that none of the plants experienced significant damage, although production was halted at some locations,” according to the spokesman.
 
“There were no reports of any Sanyo employees being injured,” the report added. (Sanyo also has an ingot/wafer production facility in Salem, OR.)
 
UPDATE 2
 
PV module encapsulation manufacturer, Solutia Inc said that its production plant in Kashima, Japan received no damage in the earthquake last Friday. However, the company noted that it had temporarily suspended operations at the plant after power supplies were stopped. 
 
Major industrial users of energy across multiple industries have suspended production to conserve energy supplies in the short-term. 
 
Solutia said that its Kashima facility had been supplied with a sufficient amount of inventory to support current commitments, partly due to the recent strong demand and the need to offer short turnaround on orders. 

(Additional reporting and editing by Tom Cheyney)

1 December 2021
Join this virtual conference on 1-2 December 2021 for expert presentations covering PV Module Technology, Supply & Site Optimisation for Utility-Scale. Delegates can access streamed presentations, session recordings and chat/messaging tools to connect with fellow delegates and speakers. Speakers include leading developers, manufacturers, testing and research institutes, including: NREL, Silicon Ranch, Sonnedix, Heliene, Powertis, LONGi Solar, JinkoSolar, PVEL, Risen Energy, Seraphim, STS, Trina Solar, Eternalsun Spire, QEERI, Fraunhofer, Estuary Capital Partners and VDE
2 December 2021
Intersolar is the world’s leading exhibition & conference series for the solar industry. As part of this event series, Intersolar India in Mumbai is India’s most pioneering exhibition and conference for India’s solar industry. It takes place annually and has a focus on the areas of photovoltaics, PV production and solar thermal technologies. Since 2019, Intersolar India is held under the umbrella of The smarter E India – India’s innovation hub for the new energy world.
9 December 2021
The Smart Energy Council is hosting Australia’s second Virtual Smart Energy Conference and Exhibition on Thursday, 9 December 2021. This event will show that the industry powers on despite COVID-19 and we are standing together undeterred in spirit. Bringing our global community together using the latest technology.
13 January 2022
Intersolar North America and Energy Storage North America “Come Together” for the first time in Long Beach, CA—connecting installers, developers, utilities, technology providers, policy makers, and key stakeholders from around the world to advance the clean energy future. With best-in-class conference programming, integrated exhibits and pavilions, and the live Solar Games installer competition, #isnaesna21 will showcase the industry trends, innovative solutions, and emerging talent transforming the solar, energy storage, and e-mobility markets. Register today to redeem our exclusive offer for PV Tech readers—free expo hall or 20% off full conference pass.
1 February 2022
As Solar Finance & Investment enters its ninth year, we sit on the cusp of a new power market with solar at its heart. The 2022 edition of the event will build on our years of expertise and relationships to bring investors and lenders together with top developers. Connect with leaders in the field and use exclusive insights to drive investment and development decisions for the future. Meet new and existing project partners at the largest gathering of European solar investors and lenders.
23 February 2022
Held annually since 2016, the Energy Storage Summit Europe is the place to be for senior stakeholders in the European storage industry. Designed to accelerate deployment of storage, we examine evolving chemistries, business models, project design, revenue stacks and use cases for storage. The 2022 edition will include exclusive content around longer duration solutions, energy strategies for wide-scale deployment of EVs and "EnTech", the event which sits at the intersection of digitisation, decentralisation and decarbonation of the power system. Come to meet TSOs, DSOs, Utilities, Developers, Investors and Lenders and leave with new contacts, partners and a wealth of information.

Read Next

November 29, 2021
UK developer Elgin Energy is targeting 5GW of solar-plus-storage across its core markets by 2025 after completing a £25 million (US$33.3 million) fundraising round
November 29, 2021
A round-up of the latest project news from across the world, including Masdar’s plans to develop solar in Armenia, TotalEnergies completing its largest project in France and Shikun & Binui expanding its US energy portfolio.
November 29, 2021
The economic viability of deploying thin-film floating solar systems at offshore locations is being explored by a new collaborative study in the Netherlands.
November 29, 2021
Mainstream Renewable Power has secured €90 million (US$101.6 million) in equity funding to support the build-out of a multi-gigawatt pipeline across Latin America, Africa and the Asia Pacific region
November 29, 2021
Austrian utility Verbund is acquiring a 147.6MWp PV project in southern Spain from renewables developer BayWa r.e. as part of the company’s planned solar expansion.
November 26, 2021
Renewables developer and asset owner Grasshopper Energy has signed an agreement that could support the development of up to 1GW of solar in Romania by 2030.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Solar Media Events
December 1, 2021
Solar Media Events
February 1, 2022
London, UK
Solar Media Events
February 23, 2022
London, UK
Solar Media Events
March 23, 2022
Austin, Texas, USA
Solar Media Events
March 29, 2022
Lisbon, Portugal

Cyber Monday Flash Sale – 50% off our subscriptions

24 hours only