KYOCERA: Celebrating 40 Years of Solar Innovation
Kyocera was at the forefront of clean, renewable energy with solar modules beginning in 1975, and the future is brighter than ever.
Kyocera was at the forefront of the development of clean, renewable energy with solar modules beginning in 1975, and the future is brighter than ever. According to market research firm IHS, global solar power generation is expected to grow by 30% in 2015, mainly in China, Japan, the U.S. and the UK. After four decades of research, development and mass production of photovoltaic (PV) module solutions, Kyocera has earned such distinguished titles as "Performance Leader" and "Global Innovator" — and is the only solar module manufacturer to rank the highest in performance in all six categories of GTM Research's 2014 Reliability Scorecard that determined PV Module Reliability under extreme temperatures and environmental conditions . Additionally, Kyocera Corporation was named a 2014 Top Global Innovator by Thomson Reuters in large part because of its success rate with innovative patents and global reach. If we look back, we can see how this 40-year commitment to research and product development has placed Kyocera in the forefront as a market leader in solar energy.
A Brief History
Kyocera's entry into solar energy was prompted by the "Energy Crises" of the 1970s. The global disruption in oil supplies created a groundswell of public interest in renewable energy. In 1975, Kyocera established the Japan Solar Energy Corp. (JSEC), a joint venture with Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd., Sharp Corp., Mobil Oil Corp. and Tyco Laboratories Inc., to engage in the research and development of solar cells. By 1979, Kyocera had provided an 8kW system to power a microwave communications station 4,000 meters above sea level in Peru. This was the first large-scale solar power generating system produced using the edge-defined film-fed growth (EFG) process.
By the early 1980s, Kyocera had established a full-scale solar R&D facility at its Yohkaichi Plant in Shiga Prefecture, Japan, becoming the first manufacturer in the world to mass-produce multicrystalline silicon solar cells using the casting method — today's industry standard. During this time, Kyocera established an international business division for solar energy products, and began shipping solar modules to North America and Europe.
As a way to educate the public and introduce solar power products to society, Kyocera established a Solar Energy Center in Sakura, Chiba Prefecture, Japan. By the mid-1980s, understanding the economic benefits that solar provides to rural areas, Kyocera donated PV systems in Pakistan, Thailand and China. Development efforts in this timeframe paid off as Kyocera set its first world record for solar energy conversion efficiency in multicrystalline silicon solar cells.
Larger commercial projects, residential solar systems, and solar powered race cars became a reality in the 1990s. Kyocera entered the '90s with the development of solar powered race cars. Kyocera's racing car models participated in the World Solar Challenge, an all-solar race across the continent of Australia. Ultimately, Kyocera's race car "Son of Sun" placed third in 1993.
During this period, Kyocera installed its first grid-interfacing solar system in Japan, and increased its production capacity to 6 megawatts of solar modules per year, the largest in Japan at the time. By 1993, Kyocera had begun marketing residential solar power systems, and the Japanese government launched a subsidy program promoting residential PV. Internationally, portable solar power generating systems were supplied to Mongolia as a result of a research project commissioned by Japan's New Energy Development Organization (NEDO).
Kyocera has continued to achieve world records in energy conversion efficiency. To help meet demand and ensure complete customer satisfaction, Kyocera Solar Corporation was established, providing an integrated system of sales, installation and maintenance. In 1999, the Kyocera Solar franchise business was launched as the industry's first business model of its kind, and Kyocera Solar, Inc. was established in Scottsdale, Arizona, to serve the Americas and Australia.
By 2005, worldwide distribution of Kyocera solar power generating systems expanded with production facilities in Japan, China, Mexico and Europe, with manufacturing capacity currently at roughly 1.2 gigawatts of solar modules per year. Kyocera achieved another world record in energy conversion efficiency from multicrystalline silicon solar cells. In the U.S., Kyocera unveiled the first "Solar Grove" parking structure in San Diego, California. In Japan, Kyocera supplied solar modules for the Toyota Prius solar ventilation system, an optional feature for the award-winning hybrid car introduced by Toyota Motor Corporation.
Kyocera has always been globally driven to find solar solutions that are right for the times. 2011 brought devastation to Japan through the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. In response, Kyocera began production of new solar power generating systems that were compatible with long-lasting, high-capacity lithium-ion battery storage units. While looking for efficiencies, Kyocera developed an innovative home energy management system (HEMS) to optimize energy consumption in the home.
Most recently, Kyocera has made headlines by completing three floating mega-solar plants on the fresh waters of Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. The collaboration between Kyocera TCL Solar LLC, a joint venture between Kyocera Corp. and Century Tokyo Leasing Corp., is generating clean, safe electricity sufficient to power roughly 1,740 average households. The company is also developing a 13.4MW installation on a dam reservoir in Japan's Chiba Prefecture.
There is no doubt that Kyocera will continue its drive to create and improve. The company's culture is reflected in the words of its founder, Dr. Kazuo Inamori:
"Creativity is not just for the development of advanced technology.
Apply ingenuity to all matters and continue to improve. Today should be better than yesterday: tomorrow, better than today."
Dr. Kazuo Inamori
The true test of longevity is exemplified in Kyocera's Sakura Solar Energy Center, showing consistent performance and reliability from its 31-year-old, 43-kilowatt PV system — now one of the oldest of its kind in continuous operation worldwide.