Honda Motor Co. plans to establish a wholly-owned subsidiary, Honda Soltec Co., Ltd., which will produce and sell the next-generation thin film solar cell independently developed by Honda. (Earlier post.) The new company will lead Honda to make a full-scale entry into the solar cell business.
By using thin film made from a compound of copper, indium, gallium and selenium (CIGS), Honda’s next-generation solar cell—first announced in 2002—achieves a major reduction in the amount of energy consumed during the manufacturing process by approximately 50% compared to what is required to produce conventional crystal silicon solar cells. This makes the new solar cell more environmentally-friendly by reducing the amount of CO2 generated even from the production stage.
Thin-film solar cells based on CIGS (Cu(In,Ga)Se2) absorbers are among the leading devices which are expected to lower the costs for photovoltaic energy conversion. Other companies working with CIGS cells include Shell Solar and Würth.
Early Honda CIGS module prototypes had a maximum output of 112 W at dimensions of 1,367 × 802 × 46 mm. Honda is working to improve the efficiency.
At the end of September 2006, Honda began construction of a ¥7-billion (US$61 million) plant to mass produce solar cells within the current site of Honda’s Kumamoto factory. The new facility will become operational in fall 2007 with an annual capacity of 27.5 megawatts.
Prior to the start-up of the new plant, Honda Soltec will begin sales in limited areas in March 2007, of CIGS thin film compound solar cells produced by Honda Engineering. Once mass production begins at the new plant in Kumamoto in fall 2007, Honda Soltec will expand sales throughout Japan.