Monday, December 10, 2012

Reports: Sharp Solar's Wrexham Plant Under Threat As Company Mulls European Exit

Sharp is reportedly planning to end production and sales of solar photovoltaic products in Europe and the US as early as next year.

Several news outlets carry reports today suggesting the company will concentrate production in Japan as part of a turnaround plan approved by banks yesterday. The deal could also see the sale of three Japanese manufacturing plants.

The company was planning to shift its European headquarters from Germany to Wrexham, North Wales, as recently as June, but now the site could be sold after almost 30 years of operations. The Wrexham site currently employs around 500 people.

Sharp has previously denied it would scale back its Wrexham plant following successive cuts to solar subsidies in the UK, insisting it was committed to a site where it has invested over £26m.

A Sharp spokesman declined to comment on the grounds the company's business rebuilding programs have not been officially decided yet.

Sharp issued a statement to the Tokyo stock exchange today confirming it had secured ¥360bn (£2.9bn) in loan extensions and other financing from banks after making a net loss of ¥376bn (£3bn) last year. Reportedly. the company wants to shed more than 10,000 jobs as it looks to return to profit.

The company's biggest losses have come from televisions, which have overshadowed the problems in its solar arm. Sharp is facing intense competition from rivals importing cheaper panels from China, contributing to a 16 per cent drop in revenue from solar cells and an operating loss for its solar division of ¥22bn (£174m), down from a small profit the previous year.

Other solar companies have been feeling the pinch caused by cheaper Chinese imports: 20 major EU manufacturers have gone bust in 2012 alone, including market leader Q-Cells.

The EU is investigating alleged dumping by Chinese firms and a group of 20 companies has also asked the EU to examine allegedly illegal subsidies provided by the Beijing government. Earlier this year, the US introduced tariffs of around 31 per cent on Chinese imports in response to the subsidies.

The news comes the day after UK installer Ploughcroft Building Services entered administration. It has now been purchased by former owner Chris Hopkins and renamed as Ploughcroft Ltd.

In related news, another leading Japanese clean tech developer, Kyocera, announced that has flicked the switch on two 18 month smart grid trials in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

One demonstration project consists of a power supply micro-grid that uses power distribution lines from a 1MW solar power plant to utilise related technologies and performance, and to minimise the effects of power output fluctuations.

Another, a smart house, incorporates a hybrid energy management system that uses a 3.4kW residential solar power generating system, 24kWh lithium-ion storage battery and an energy-efficient heat storage unit.

By operating a Home Energy Management System (HEMS) equipped with communication equipment and sensors, the Smart House helps optimise energy usage from the solar power generating system, storage battery, power grid and smart appliances that allow for electricity demand in the house to be responsive to smart grid signals.


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