Kyocera sees strong cell demand

Japanese electronics group Kyocera may exceed its solar cell production target for the year, as strong demand in its home market lifts revenues and profits.

The Kyoto-based company, which does not disclose detailed figures on its solar business, says that solar product sales contributed to a 20% increase in third quarter revenues in its applied-ceramic segment over the prior quarter to 51.3bn yen ($558m).

Solar cells and modules account for the largest portion of revenues in the segment, which in turn contributes about 15% of the group’s total sales.

Kyocera has targeted solar cell production of 750MW for the current budget year ending on 31 March.

“We're sure to reach the target by the end of FY13 and might be able to exceed the 750MW target,” says Elly Yoshikawa, a spokeswoman for the firm.  

Japan introduced a new feed-in tariff for renewable energy on 1 July 2012, which has triggered strong demand for solar power plants in the country. It is widely expected to become the third-largest solar market by next year, after China and the US.

In August, Kyocera set up a special purpose company together with a leasing firm to build about 60-70MW of projects across Japan within three years.  It is also supplying modules to companies building 1-2MW systems on their properties.

Kyocera forecasts solar sales in Japan over the three months ending 31 March, “will grow significantly”, boosted by the rush to complete installations ahead of a cut to the feed-in tariff on 1 April.

The company estimates it holds a 20% share of the residential market and 30% of the market for industrial solar systems.

About 80% of all Kyocera solar products go to the local market. Higher demand from Thailand has also contributed to growth, it says.

The company has module assembly plants in Tianjin in China, Tijuana in Mexico, San Diego in the US and the Czech Republic

It does not disclose its module manufacturing capacity, but in January said its Czech plant was running at full tilt and that it had plans for further expansion.

Operating profit in the applied ceramics segment was also up, rising 21% over the prior quarter to 4.6bn yen thanks to the increased sales and cost reductions in the solar energy business.

Overall, the group’s income has declined slightly compared with the previous nine months due to weaker sales of mobile phones.

Kyocera expects full-year profits at the group to drop 24% to 57bn yen.