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Solar-cell shipments slow in shadow of power price cuts

Cheaper foreign-made panels have edge in Japan

TOKYO -- Solar panel shipments in Japan fell 11% in the year ended March, chilled by lower prices for solar power.

The capacity of solar cells shipped to destinations in this country came to 6,341 megawatts, the Japan Photovoltaic Energy Association said Wednesday. The drop-off was particularly severe for panels made in Japan, at 18%, and milder for those produced overseas, at 7%.

Foreign-made panels are 20-30% cheaper than their Japanese counterparts. This gap means the difference between profit and loss for many power producers, particularly now that the government has lowered the price utilities pay for solar power under the feed-in tariff scheme. Major Japanese panel makers such as Kyocera have been forced to scale back production. Panels from overseas now account for more than 60% of shipments in Japan.

Shipments of residential panels, considered a stronghold for Japanese makers, plunged 22%. Fewer households are installing the devices with the goal of selling their power. Industrial panels used in large solar farms or installed on factory roofs, for example, fared better, with shipments declining only 8%.

(Nikkei)

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