Launching Organic Solar Cells

Japan’s Konica Minolta Holdings Inc said it would launch organic solar cells in three years, taking aim at growing demand for renewable energy sources and posing a threat to existing solar cell makers such as Sharp Corp and First Solar Inc.

Organic solar cells are bendable and cost less to manufacture than silicon-based solar cells, which currently dominate the market for such products.

Konica Minolta, a major maker of copiers, printers and high-tech components, expects organic solar cells to join its lighting fixture based on organic light-emitting diode technology as its new earnings drivers.

“Just like our organic light-emitting diode lighting operation, preparation is underway so that (organic) solar cells will become a business of substantial size for us by 2016, 2017,” Konica Minolta Chief Executive Masatoshi Matsuzaki told Reuters in an interview on Friday.

Konica Minolta said in November it would launch advanced lighting equipment based on organic light-emitting diode technology by March 2011 and that it would target annual sales of more than 100 billion yen ($1.1 billion) by 2017.

OLED lighting, which uses organic or carbon-containing compounds that emit light when electricity is applied, is a promising next-generation lighting fixture as it is light, thin and bendable, and unlike fluorescent lamps is also mercury-free.

Matsuzaki said Konica Minolta has decided to bring forward the start-up of its new LCD film plant from its original autumn target, responding to robust demand from panel makers including a new client.

“Demand is running high. This is not the time for us to lie back and take it easy,” he said.

The company competes with Fujifilm Holdings Corp in triacetyl cellulose (TAC) film, which protects the polarisation plates used in LCD panels.

Konica Minolta plans to spend 18 billion yen to build the new factory in Japan, which will be capable of making 50 million square metres of TAC film a year.

Matsuzaki said Konica Minolta internally aims to post a bigger profit in the year starting April than it did last business year.

It reported an operating profit of 56.26 billion yen for the year ended March 2009, while analysts on average expect Konica Minolta to post 53 billion yen in operating profit in the next business year, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.