Even the big boys of solar need to keep ramping up production to meet global demand. Today, Mitsubishi Electric said it will invest 50 billion yen ($455 million) to quadruple its annual photovoltaic production capacity to 600 megawatts by 2012 from 150 megawatts today. The plan calls for the construction of a new fabrication building at its Nakatsugawa Works Iida factory in Nagano Prefecture. This new plan is 100 megawatts bigger and a year sooner than the goal Mitsubishi set in March when it announced an investment of 7 billion yen to expand solar cell production. Mitsubishi forecasts a global PV market size of 1,950 megawatts in 2009, growing to 4,430 megawatts by 2012.
Although solar incentives in certain markets are weakening, and are threatening to expire in the U.S, demand is expected to increase as the world switches to cleaner energy sources, especially if oil prices remain high. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the U.S. solar market passes Europe’s in a few years,” Aiji Suzuki, head of the Nakatsugawa Works facility, told Reuters.
And while oil prices might have slipped from their record highs earlier this summer, silicon prices are expected to slip too. Solar manufacturers are expecting silicon prices to fall drastically as a glut of new fabrication facilities come online in the next few years. New Energy Finance’s Silicon and Wafer Price Index estimates that solar silicon prices will fall 43 percent next year.