Sharp to halt US panel production

Workers at Sharp's module plant in Wales.

Sharp recently announced plans to end PV module production at its factory in Wrexham, Wales.

Japanese electronics giant Sharp will stop producing PV modules at its plant in Memphis, Tennessee, as part of ongoing efforts to restructure its global solar business.

The Osaka-based group will halt panel production at the plant -- which will continue to manufacture microwave ovens and printer toner cartridges -- at the end of March. Last month, it revealed plans to end PV module production and slash up to 250 jobs at its factory in North Wales, UK.

The company is still negotiating with the factory union in Tennessee about the precise number of job losses, spokesperson Miyuki Nakayama tells Recharge, denying a report in The Nikkei newspaper stating that up to 300 people could lose their jobs.

"We’re restructuring our solar business on a global basis,” Nakayama says, adding that the company is “positive” about the outlook for its PV operations.

After the Tennessee plant stops producing panels, Sharp will only make PV modules at its Sakai plant in Osaka. It also still holds a stake in a thin-film module plant in Sicily, along with Enel Green Power and STMicroelectronics.

Sharp remains committed to keeping US solar developer Recurrent Energy on board as a subsidiary, according to Nakayama. Speculation that Sharp might sell the San Francisco-based company initially surfaced in September 2012.

Sales at Sharp’s solar division rose 80% on the year to ¥168.3bn ($1.7bn) in the first half of the current fiscal year, underscoring the strength of Japan’s residential and utility-scale PV market.

Market research firm IHS this week ranked Sharp as Japan’s top module supplier in the first three quarters of the current fiscal year, on shipments of approximately 850MW.

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