The Japanese solar PV market is in a state of flux; since the market’s inception, the ‘Big Four’ module suppliers — Kyocera, Sharp, Sanyo (now owned by Panasonic), and Mitsubishi — shaped PV in Japan while serving their primary suppliers. Now, foreign entrants such as Suntech, Canadian Solar, Yingli, Trina, and JA Solar, as well as Japanese newcomers such as Solar Frontier, threaten to dethrone the incumbents. While the country’s new feed-in tariff (FIT), intended to develop the large-scale solar market, has positioned Japan as a center of global PV demand, the market’s main driver is and will continue to be the residential sector.
The figure below demonstrates just how powerful the residential market sector is in Japan (note that this figure defines the residential market as systems below 10 kilowatts-DC). Over 96 percent of the cumulative PV capacity in Japan is distributed, with the remainder being centralized PV plants. This merits the question, what supply chains have helped Japan become the largest residential market?