Japan report: Solar power rises as fossils burn out

Solar panels are the way ahead, say big-spending world leaders

"We believe that by reaching the cost target of ¥23 (10.7 pence)/KWh, which is equivalent to the cost of power generation using fossil fuel, will increase the market for more environmentally friendly solar systems."

That monetary target is in line with data published by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) that also predicts the cost of oil-derived energy rising through 2030 and beyond as reserves run out.

More investment

Another firm with strong solar roots which is hoping that proves true is Sanyo. The newly eco-friendly company is best known in solar circles for its proprietary HIT (Heterojunction with Intrinsic Thin-layer) solar cells.

According to Sanyo's Aaron Fowles, these, "have the world's number one conversion efficiency, of 19.7 per cent, for mass-produced [cells]."

Like Sharp, Sanyo is also spending heavily to increase its PV production capabilities. Between now and 2010 it will have invested ¥70 billion (£325 million) in new facilities that will take its output of solar products to around 600MW per year.

Just next week, it will open a new plant at Shiga, also in western Japan, that will consolidate its HIT production lines in one place, while the Solar Ark we saw recently will soon house a new PV research facility.

Market forces

Of course, companies can do research and build solar plants to their hearts' contents, but getting solar panels in place atop a lot more houses around the world is another challenge.

Sharp's Nakayama explains how market forces will come into play here too: "We are confident that the various applications and product line-ups Sharp is proposing to consumers will speak for themselves."

In other words, the 'build it and they will come' model applies to getting the world using renewable energy just as well as it does to fictional baseball fields.

The only difference is, this isn't a movie set and if we get it wrong at the first attempt the chances for a retake are slim to none.