In July 2011, when Solar Frontier KK’s new solar-panel plant starts operating at full capacity, this obscure company will become a major player in the rapidly growing solar-power industry. Its factory will be able to produce more photovoltaic cells than any plant in the world.
Solar Frontier ‘s parent company is one of Japan’s biggest oil companies, Showa Shell Sekiyu KK. Large oil companies like Royal Dutch Shell PLC and BP PLC and are cutting back investments on solar energy. However, in July 2011, the Japanese oil refiner will be opening its 100 billion yen (roughly $1.25 billion) solar-panel factory in Miyazaki, south Japan.
According to Shigeaki Kameda, Solar Frontier’s chief executive, “We know that the oil industry is not disappearing today or tomorrow. But if we don’t take this chance on solar now, we feel like we won’t get another chance.”
According to the Japanese research firm Fuji Keizai, total sales of solar panels are estimated to reach 8.998 trillion yen worldwide in 2025. This is more than a five times increase from last year’s sales. CIGS technology, which includes gallium, is forecast to grow the most, rising 26-fold to 900 billion yen.