Sharp UK plant 'near capacity'

Less than a year after rumours suggested Sharp was considering shutting its 400MW PV factory in the UK for good, the company has said it is running the plant at “near maximum capacity”.

While admitting that at least some of the output is being shipped to the booming Japanese market, Sharp adds that it sees “continuous demand” in Europe, particularly in the residential rooftop segment.

The Japanese electronics giant is benefiting from its apparently prescient decision to slice against the industry’s grain a few years ago and open a module-assembly plant in Wrexham, Wales, where it also runs a training academy for UK installers.

In the past year the UK has emerged as a top-10 global solar market, with more than 800MW installed during the first half of the year.

Sharp may also benefit in the import cap the EU recently placed on Chinese modules.

“Our position as a global electronics company helped us to balance the impact of the PV market dynamics,” claims Peter Thiele, executive vice president at Sharp Energy Solutions Europe, whose European headquarters are in London.

“As a result, our business has been less affected by recent market volatility compared to competitors. “

Sharp was the world’s sixth largest supplier of PV modules last year, and it is the top player in its home country, according to NPD Solarbuzz.

In addition to its Wales plant, Sharp is partial owner of the 3Sun joint venture, which owns a module factory in Sicily.

Last month, fuelled by the fiery Japanese solar market, Sharp raised its full-year shipment guidance for PV modules to 1.8GW. Sharp’s solar unit is once again profitable.