The Solar Panel Industry

Before identifying the potential strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats Sharp faces in solar panel market. We must first examine the solar panel industry as a whole. The future growth of industry and the demand for solar panels is contingent on two economic drivers. These two factors include what types of energy will be used to fuel the growth of developing nations and how and where the energy is produced. The first economic driver that could potentially increase the growth of the industry lays in the fact that securing traditional energy as a means of fueling growth is becoming increasingly more expensive with an ever-growing demand. The growth in demand for traditional energy can be attributed to the development of countries such as China and India. The second economic driver that will dictate the growth of the industry is the fact that over the next few decades developing nations will shift away from centralized energy production to more local production. On the grounds that developing countries don’t have the current infrastructure such as electrical grids and decentralized energy production is much more cost effective than building such infrastructure (Bradford, 2006). In closing, the future growth of the solar industry hinges on developing nations using renewable energy to fuel their growth and leap frog the expense of constructing infrastructure to distribute traditional forms of energy with decentralized production. After identifying the two drivers that will dictate the future growth of the solar panel industry, we can examine the projections made about the future growth of the industry. The current market is over five billion dollars annually with new markets continuing to develop. Predictions have been made that the solar cell manufacturing industry will be a twenty- five billion plus industry by 2010 (CSU, 2007). While the solar panel industry has experienced a steady stream of growth for the last six years with growth estimated at a rate of thirty percent annually (Businessweek, 2006). In conclusion, the solar panel industry has experienced a consistent annual rate of growth that will only continue to increase with the growing trend towards renewable energy. Now that we have examined the economic drivers that will fuel the growth of the industry and the current growth the industry has experienced we can began to examine the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats Sharp faces. The foundation of Sharps’ strength in the solar panel industry stems from their experience manufacturing solar powered fuel cells. Since 1963 Sharp Corporation has been mass producing solar powered fuel cells. This translates into roughly forty years of production experience. With Sharp’s solar panel division being the second largest producer within the industry. Another crucial strength that Sharp possesses is its effective utilization of its working capital generated from its sale of consumer electronics. Sharp uses this working capital to fund research and development and gain a foothold in developing markets as a means of achieving their long-term goal of becoming an industry leader. Sharp is currently allocating billions of dollars to the research and development of new cutting edge technology before industry rivals beat them to the punch (Hall, 2008). In addition, to investing in new technology, Sharp is increasing their production capacity with construction of a new factory in Sakai, Japan costing 72. 5 billion dollars. With the specific purpose of this plant being to produce solar panels suitable for the climates in Southern Europe, Southeast Asia, Central and South America, and Africa (Williams, 2008) pcmag. Finally, Sharp has just recently announced a partnership with Italian energy company costing 1. 05 billion dollars to build several solar power-generating plants in the next four years. With Sharp collecting royalties from Enel’s sales generated from the new plants. In summary, one of Sharp’s biggest strengths is their ability to effectively utilize their working capital and take the necessary actions to accomplish their long-term goal of being the industry leader. After evaluating the strengths Sharp brings to the industry, we can begin to evaluate their weaknesses within the industry. One of the greatest weaknesses of Sharp stems from the fact that they are headquartered in Japan. Which has the highest production costs in the entire world . The high production costs of manufacturing in Japan poses a serious threat by hampering their ability to offer prices competitive with those of the competition. Who manufacture their products in countries with much lower labor costs. Another weakness of Sharp is the susceptibility to changes in the value of other countries currency eroding their sales (Funding Universe, unknown). In summary, the weaknesses of Sharp Corporation consist of manufacturing in the world most expensive country and their vulnerability to changing exchange rates negatively impacting their sales. After reviewing the weaknesses of Sharp within the industry we can now examine the opportunities Sharp has within the industry. With the growing trend towards transitioning to renewable energy sources, there are multiple opportunities within the industry that Sharp can capitalize on as a means achieving growth. One of the greatest opportunities presented to Sharp Corporation within the industry is Europe’s goal to obtain twenty percent of its energy from renewable sources by the year 2020. Even if only a quarter of the renewable energy quota were generated through solar power, the entire industry would have to multiply their production by twenty-five (Schenker, 2008). Europe’s commitment to renewable energy presents Sharp with the opportunity of unlimited demand for their solar panels. On the grounds that the industry will most likely not be able to increase production capacity to meet the ambitious goals Europe has set for themselves. In summary, Europe’s commitment to renewable energy poses a substantial opportunity for Sharp to increase their presence within the industry. With the growing trend of modernization brought on by globalization developing nations present Sharp with yet another opportunity to achieve growth. Solar energy has proven to be one of the best solutions for providing electricity to the rural communities around the globe. With 1. 6 million people in developing countries not having access to electricity grids. Sharp has the opportunity to invent and manufacturer solar panel products, which are suitable to the needs of those living without, access to electricity (EPIA, 2009). So, as Sharp continues to improve production efficiency and cut costs, they are presented with the valuable opportunity of developing solar panel specifically suited to the needs of those in developing nations. The opportunity to provide solar panel products to developing nations would further the Sharp Corporation emphasis on corporate social responsibility. Which set out the goal of taking action that help Sharp become a global company while contributing to the construction of a sustainable society (Sharp, 2009). In summary, the developing world and the 1. 6 million people without electricity present Sharp with the opportunity of new markets while helping to strengthen their dedication to social responsibility. After examining the opportunities that are currently available to Sharp within the industry, we can begin to examine the current threats Sharp faces. Before February 2008 Sharp held the ranking of number one producer within the industry. However, they have recently been replaced by Q-cells. Founded in 1999 in Germany, Q-cells was able to surpass Sharp due to their ability to acquire the necessary amount of poly silicon during the recent shortages (Calfinder, 2008). In summary, the German company Q-cells poses a serious threat to Sharp, with their ability to rise to the number one position ten years after going into business. Sharp also faces a serious threat from manufacturers abroad, whose governments provide larger subsidies than the Japanese government. Sharp faces a serious threat from competitors in China, where the government subsidies aimed creating a stronger market for domestic manufacturer is three times as large as the current subsidies offered by the Japanese government. In summary, Sharp faces an international threat from manufacturers within China whose government subsidies far surpass those offered in Japan. In conclusion, what once began as small metal works shop has transformed into an international corporation. With the foundation of their success being attributed to the corporate culture created by its founder Tokuji Hayakawa. His emphasis on the importance of investing in the development of new technologies is the reason Sharp is where they are today. With Sharp’s abundance of working capital, and the opportunities that exist within Europe and developing nations Sharp will almost certainly be able to reclaim their spot as the number one industry leader.

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