In the last few years, the United States has lost its position as the leader in photovoltaic cell production and has stepped aside for Japan, which produces more than 50% of the “raw material” needed for the construction of solar power stations. In the late 90’s, the United States was the leader, due mostly to incentives by the Clinton Administration. From the moment Bush came to office, those incentives stopped being a priority. But in Japan, the government is setting up a lot of plans to stimulate installation, development and production of all kinds of technologies that allow to generate energy without the use of fossil fuels.
Below there is a graphic that shows the growth in world production of photovoltaic cells. More than 50% of the past few year’s production belongs to Japan:
Sharp produces 36% of all photovoltaic cells produced in the world in a year. Directors at Sharp say that they’re increasing production at a rate close to an annual 80% in order to cater for the great demand of the European market. Sharp will open the biggest photovoltaic cell production plant in the world in Nara in a few months. With the cells produced at the Sharp factory in Nara, a solar power station with a production capacity of 160MW per year could be built. Sanyo and Kyocera are great photovoltaic cell producers as well.
Japan, apart from investing on technology for the production of alternative energies, is also the world leader in production of hybrid and electric cars. It really looks like they want to stop depending on gas, something that still seems far but IS possible. The strategy of Japan and its big companies seems the best judging by what is happening NOW and “seeing” what is going to happen in a few year’s time. A country without great natural resources as Japan is, the best thing to do is turn into producers of the future “raw materials”. I hope one day the world will depend more on the production of photovoltaic cells than on the oil extraction in certain countries. And I’m sure that it won’t only be Japan, but lots of other countries where they’ll produce their own cells and will build their own solar power stations. In Spain we are not leaders in solar energy, but I think we are world runner-ups, both in production of windmills and in installations of wind power.
This is how a photovoltaic cell looks like. It works thanks to the photoelectric effect discovered by Hertz and theorized by Albert Einstein more than 100 years ago.