New Solar Frontier Japan plant

Solar Frontier will start CIS thin-film PV module production in March 2015 at a new 150MW factory it plans to build in northern Japan’s Tohoku region.

It will invest roughly ¥13bn ($124.8m) to build the factory in the village of Ohira, north of Sendai, the capital of Miyagi prefecture, the company said at a press conference in Tokyo.

The plant is Solar Frontier’s fourth, joining its three manufacturing facilities in Miyazaki prefecture, southern Japan.

The new factory will provide a “blueprint for future manufacturing facilities outside of Japan,” in accordance with “mid-term plans” to construct production facilities in overseas markets, the Show Shell Sekiyu subsidiary said.

The company remains tight-lipped about when and where it might open its first overseas factory.

“We view this plant as a steppingstone toward global expansion,” Brooks Herring, Solar Frontier’s director of international business, tells Recharge.

“So when this plant is up and running, it proves our technology, (and) we believe we’ll have a product that is extremely competitive in both performance and in cost. And that will be our springboard to having future plants overseas.”

The Tohoku region was devastated by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that triggered the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Underscoring the government’s efforts to revitalise the regional economy, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Miyagi prefectural authorities provided Solar Frontier with grants to facilitate construction of the new plant.

The factory, which will employ about 100 people, will mainly produce modules for sale in northern Japan.

Earlier this week, Solar Frontier revealed plans to provide EPC services for solar plants throughout Japan with German PV system-integrator Belectric and Shoseki Engineering & Construction.