Kyocera Solar Inc. has reached a major milestone at its solar panel manufacturing facilities in North America. This week, the company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Kyocera Corporation, announced that it has turned out 2 million photovoltaic (PV) solar modules at its facilities in San Diego, Calif. and Tijuana, Mexico.
“This milestone demonstrates Kyocera’s ongoing leadership in growing the solar industry worldwide,” said Steve Hill, president of Kyocera Solar, a wholly owned subsidiary of Japan-based Kyocera Corporation.
While Kyocera Corporation has been producing PV modules since the 1970s, Kyocera Solar only began production in North America in 2004, when it opened its first production facility in Tijuana. In 2010, Kyocera Solar opened a facility in San Diego to meet increased demand in the United States.
“It took more than five years for Kyocera to reach the one million module mark at our North American operations and only two years to double it,” said Mr. Hill.
The company’s cells are currently powering several notable locations in the San Diego area, including San Diego State University, UC San Diego, the University of San Diego, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo.
In early December, the company announced that its PV solar panels are powering a brand new 90-kilowatt canopy that charges electric vehicles at the San Diego Zoo. In addition to powering electric vehicles in the zoo’s parking lot, Kyocera Solar’s PV panels provide renewable energy to the electrical grid while storing solar power for future use.
The charging station project is part of the Smart City San Diego initiative, a collaboration combining the resources of government, business, education and nonprofit organizations in the San Diego area.
“This high-profile and innovative collaborative project combines two major sustainability initiatives – solar energy and electric vehicles – showcasing to the millions of Zoo visitors that the future of energy is in San Diego today,” said Jim Waring, a partner in the Smart City San Diego program who serves as executive chair of CleanTECH San Diego.
All the panels used at the charging station were manufactured at the company’s San Diego facility.
“Kyocera is a recognized solar industry leader and its commitment to quality and local manufacturing is important to Smart City San Diego’s mission as well,” added Mr. Waring.
With 1.9 percent market share, Kyocera ranks 14th among solar PV module manufacturers worldwide. The world’s leading manufacturer is China-based Suntech Power, with 5.1 percent market share.
The total global capacity of PV solar power has enjoyed exponential growth in recent decades. In 1995, total PV capacity amounted to a paltry 0.6 gigawatts (GW) and only increased to 5.4 GW by 2005. In 2011, total PV capacity ballooned to 70 GW.
“We’re seeing many regions increasingly embrace high-quality solar energy solutions, and ongoing innovations from Kyocera will continue to improve efficiencies,” said Mr. Hill.
Kyocera Solar’s PV cells boast the world’s highest conversion efficiency of any cell in mass production, with a 17.8 percent conversion rate.
Kyocera is also vigilant about ensuring sustainability across its own operations. The company recycles around 95 percent of all standard waste materials, operates a rooftop solar array that offsets 415 tons of carbon dioxide each year, and uses recycled water for landscape irrigation.
“Consumers who use Kyocera products can rest assured that they are purchasing high-quality, reliable products manufactured with a strong environmental consciousness,” said David Hester, president of Kyocera Mexicana, the conglomerate’s Mexican branch. “We are committed to continuous improvement in all phases of manufacturing, including environmental impact.”