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2009年8月 3日 (月)

太陽光発電:新事業の優良株 国も後押し、企業参入相次ぐ

(Mainichi Japan) August 2, 2009
Outlook bright for home solar power market
太陽光発電:新事業の優良株 国も後押し、企業参入相次ぐ

Thanks to new subsidies for homeowners, solar power generation is gaining momentum, with manufacturers rushing to replace their previous clunky offerings with upgraded, slimmed-down modern versions, as well as introducing solar technology to the automotive and cellphone industries.

Fueling interest further are plans to introduce a system for selling power back to power suppliers -- at twice the standard rates of around 24 yen per kilowatt-hour -- by the end of the year.

A 3-kilowatt solar panel can cover between 60 and 70 percent of the electricity needs of the average household. However, for all their environmental friendliness, old-style roof-mounted solar panels are something of an eyesore. However, homebuilders now have the more attractive options of solar roofing tiles, or transparent solar panels for glass doors and ceilings. For more complicated applications, consumers can even buy a 1-millimeter-thick flexible power generating film.

Construction firm Sekisui House reports that orders for solar generator-equipped homes have surged since the beginning of the year, and has bumped up its sales target from 4,000 homes to 6,000. The company says that despite the modest price increase, the reductions on monthly utility bills are proving popular with buyers.

Home solar power units first went on sale sometime around 1993. Priced between 6 and 10 million yen for a standard 3-kilowatt setup, they were almost exclusively the preserve of the rich, but since January this year interest in home solar generation has risen. Improvements in technology, combined with government subsidies, have whittled down the price to the point where homeowners can fit a solar panel for less than 2 million yen. Over 40,000 subsidy applications were made during the first half of this year alone, almost certain to surpass the previous record set in 2005.


Local governments are also supporting the new solar boom. According to the Japan Photovoltaic Expansion Center (J-PEC), 451 local governments are either running or planning to run a subsidy system. For a 3-kilowatt system in a house in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward, at an average cost of 2 million yen, the national government will pay a 210,000 yen subsidy, with another 300,000 yen from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and a hefty 540,000 yen from the ward, more than halving the price.

In Saitama Prefecture, which introduced subsidies in April, the prefectural government budgeted 400 million yen for the predicted 2,600 applications during the fiscal year. It's now had to rebudget an additional 700 million yen, after over 2,200 applications were received by June.

However, modern solar technology also has other applications. Electronics manufacturer Kyocera, for example, drew a crowd at an exhibition in June with its solar panel-equipped Toyota Prius hybrid. The car's fans are driven by a power generating film on its moonroof, keeping the interior at room temperature, and industry leaders speculate it may become a standard feature in the future. The upgraded roof costs around 220,000 yen.

Cellphone carrier au by KDDI is also in on the act, hoping to shake up a saturated market with an injection of fresh technology. Sharp claims that its Solar Phone SH002 can provide a minute of talk time after 10 minutes' charge under the sun.

毎日新聞 2009年7月30日 13時44分(最終更新 7月30日 14時12分)


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