Tag: Japan

APAC solar markets on course for rapid expansion

APAC photovoltaic markets are on course for rapid expansion, and will account for a quarter of demand, worldwide, by 2015.

Although long-term forecasts can be tricky to get right, Solarbuzz’s latest report says the top five markets in the region, which are China, Japan, India, Australia and South Korea, will manage 3.3 GW in 2011 alone. China and Japan are ahead of the pack.

China and India will be particularly high growth countries as policy changes come into effect. China is running both national and provincial programs which should see its market shoot up by 174 percent compared to 2010. Growth will mainly be led by utilities, taking over from residential installations. In fact, China’s on-grid installations will double in 2011 thanks to incentive policies for large scale PV installations.

Beijing’s introduction of FIT policies throughout the country means it is set to break a record GW level, says Solarbuzz, including a 10 GW project pipeline. 

Meanwhile, South Korea is implementing its Renewable Portfolio Standards, which should see 1.2 GW in capacity installed over the next five years, but at a snail’s pace compared to previous years.

As with the European market, FIT incentives are increasingly facing the chop. But Solarbuzz said that although large ground-mount installations took a hit, it means there is opportunity for solid growth in building-mount, which will continue in the near future.

Changes in Australia’s photovoltaic incentives, like Solar Credits, didn’t knock its growth. Although the government seemingly beckoned a slower change of pace in PV installations, there was a 431 percent market growth in 2010. 

India’s installations should double this year. State policies in Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat, twinned with the National Solar Mission, will see the three states really lead the way with photovoltaics in the Indian market. They’re expected to tally up 70 percent in the country overall. Project pipeline targets set for 2013 are at 1.5GW as of June this year.

Nintendo sues Nintendo

Nintendo is having an argument with what was its top distributor in Taiwan, Hakuyu. Hakuyu is filing a lawsuit against Nintendo because it claims its distribution rights were ended unfairly – just as its CEO is removed from the board of subsidiary Nintendo Phuten.

Hakuyu, says Digitimes, was the sole seller of Nintendo products in Taiwan for 28 years, until Nintendo added Acer subsidiary Weblink International in 2008.  

According to Hakuyu’s CEO, Nintendo has acted in a way that “violated business morals”. He claims years of work building up Nintendo’s presence in Taiwan’s retail channel has been destroyed without reason.

Nintendo terminated its contract with Hakuyu in March this year. It’s alleged that as part of the distributor contract, Nintendo insisted limiting which products from rival brands Hakuyu could sell.

Of course, as a company that has built a business selling Nintendo products, its profits, partners and employees have all been affected. 

That’s why it is suing Nintendo for the right to keep selling products and demanding compensation of $24.28 million, which it claims just about makes up its losses. It’s a civil lawsuit filed in the Taipei District Court. 

Although Digitimes says Nintendo Phuten isn’t commenting, the lawsuit is reaching the top brass at Japan’s HQ. 

Japanese man arrested for having a virus

Inspector Knacker of the Gifu Yard has fingered the collar of a Japanese bloke for the strange crime of having a virus on his PC without a good reason.

While many of us can’t think of a good reason to have a virus on our PCs, apparently in Japan you can be sentenced to up to two years porridge for it.

Yasuhiro Kawaguchi, 38, of Ogaki, Gifu Prefecture, was arrested at his home after coppers found the virus on his PC.

According to the Yomiuri newspaper Japan revised its Penal Code two weeks ago so that it is against the law to store a computer virus for the purpose of infecting other computers. Kawaguchi is the first to be charged under the new law.

The virus copied graphics elements and files on a computer, causing it to freeze more than 2,000 users of file-sharing software to be infected with the virus.

Kawaguchi named the virius so that it appeared to be kiddie porn and uploaded it via the file-sharing software Share. People who downloaded the file and opened it on their computers, or activated a DVD onto which the file was saved, found their computers to be infected.

Kawaguch told coppers he did it to punish people who use file-sharing software.

The new law was designed to allow coppers to charge virus distributors with something when they had no evidence of damage on another person’s PC.

Kawaguchi told police that he had been writing viruses since 2007. But under the old laws, coppers had little they could prove. 

European solar market struggles to gain traction

Yes, there’s still strong market growth for photovoltaics here in Europe! That was the message in June this year, but falling prices haven’t helped give PV the shot in the arm it needs.

Germany is partly to blame for what Solarbuzz calls a faltering market in its latest report. Relief was imminent thanks to mid-year tariff reductions but the government decided to turn the lights off on that project.

Some areas of Europe in particular have been helpful to PV adoption in the past. Germany and Italy are the obvious examples, while the UK toys with the idea. PV installations have arguably already made their mark in Germany, where it’s not uncommon to see retail outlets on the street flogging their panel services. The age of uncapped and aggressive, government sponsored feed-in tariffs could be a thing of the past in developed markets like that.

Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic all lead growth in 2010. Italy is expected to overtake Germany by 2015, to hold 39 percent of market share. 

Solarbuzz says the average distie prices for crystalline silicon modules from China was dented 20 percent, reaching €1.28/W. Downturns in major markets, says Solarbuzz, did hit manufacturers in the first half. Crystalline silicon module prices have reached unthinkable lows of €0.75-1.00/W.

Over-valued inventories are a real problem right now for companies working in the downstream. Again, it’s because of PV incentive adjustments throughout Europe. Solarbuzz says Germans working with utilities are even worried that the capcity is creating a serious risk for overall grid stability.

Now there’s a focus from PV to that other eco-friendlier big businesses, electricity storage and smart-metering.

Ultimately that’s going to knock the deployment of PV. 

Chip suppliers reach record stockpile

Chip suppliers have reported an increase in semiconductor inventory levels for the seventh consecutive month as suppliers continue to rebuild stock.

Despite the disruption of the earthquake in Japan, the second quarter saw more increases to inventory levels.

In fact, following the disaster, higher levels of inventory could become the norm as a protection against future scenarios.

The total stockpile level for all semi suppliers other than non-volatile memory is expected to rise to 81.5 days, according to IHS iSuppli figures, ahead of an expected increase in demand later this year.

This is a 1.5 percent rise from 80.3 days in the first quarter, a continued rise quarter on quarter from the end of 2009.

According to IHS iSuppli’s analysts, chip suppliers are aiming to “strategically build” their inventory levels ahead of a spike in demand later this year.

This hasbeen helped along by slower demand in the first quarter.

The trend towards increased inventories has also been seen throughout much of the electronics industry.

Distributors, contract manufacturers and original equpiment manufacturers (OEM) have all been upping stock levels, as various factors create an environment in which stock has been amassed.

The only area which did not top up its inventory levels was in the PC maker market.

In fact, computer OEM stockpiles dropped over eight percent, thanks to shipping out products for sale ahead of the holidays at the end of the year.

Memory and analogue companies showed the highest increase, grabbing an extra 15 percent of stock.

Increases will continue throughout the year, due to a slightly healthier global economic siutaion.

A strong demand for smartphones and tablets, not to mention the PC market, will help.

While it is largely thought that the semi industry has managed to successfully get through the Japanese disaster in March, there are concerns about the supply of raw wafers.

A bulid up of supply during two preceding quarters meant that the effects of the disaster were largely reduced. This was aided by the swift repairs and shifting production away from Japan.

However, with Japan accounting for 60 percent of the global supply of wafers, it’s feared that supply could be affected, despite TSMC’s positive claims.

Hitachi, Toshiba and Sony to merge LCD business

The company which sounds like a sneeze, Hitachi, is chatting to Toshiba and Sony about merging their liquid-crystal display (LCD) units.

According to Reuters the moves follow similar talks with Hon Hai which are running aground.

If Hitachi pulls it off, it would create the world’s largest maker of small panels – and besides, it is an alliance with Japanese companies rather than barbarians.

The deal would attract funding from the government-funded Innovation Network of Japan which is expected to pony up $2.5 billion in the merged unit, Reuters‘ source claimed.

In return the government fund would likely gain a 70 percent stake for that amount and the three companies would then split the remaining interest. The plan would be to list the super-company in the future.

Toshiba and Sony have been planning to merge subsidiaries, making the panels in a bid to see off competition from other Asian rivals like Samsung.

Hitachi has had enough of the volatile panel business, which requires regular large-scale investment to keep up with cut-throat price competition.

Already Sharp, which is the world’s largest maker of small LCD panels, said this month it would switch most production at one of its TV panel plants to small panels. 

AMD's Zosma core spotted in Japan

AMD’s first processor to sport its “Zosma” core, has gone on sale in the Land of the Rising Sun.

The Phenom II 960T, was introduced in the third quarter of 2010, a few months after the launch of 6-core Phenom IIs.

However it was only launched as an OEM model and it was jolly hard to find one anywhere.

But the 960T had a few things that many would find desirable. Firstly it had Turbo Core technology, that could push the frequency from 3GHz to 3.4GHz, when not all cores were flat out.

But perhaps more interesting was the “Zosma” core which was a variation of hexa-core “Thuban” design with two CPU cores disabled. Most of the time the disabled cores could be unlocked turning the X4 960T into X6 processor which ran like the Phenom II 1075T.

Now ASCII.jp has published snaps and prices of boxed version of Phenom II 960T, that went for sale this week in Japan.

According to ASCII.jp,  prices for the 960T range from $140 – $148. The Japanese Amazon website has a boxed 960T for $161.

AMD does not seem to have tried releasing the chips in North America or Europe yet. 

Indecisive governments cause PV market bother

There are a few problems in the photovoltaic market thanks to shifting attitudes from different governments.

According to Solarbuzz, constant government policy adjustments are causing waves in sizes, growth rates and customer markets in this industry.

In three Regional Downstream PV market reports, analysts pinpoint the European market, led by Germany and Italy, as having a few problems. Solarbuzz says the two had absorbed Feed-In Tariff (FIT) rate cuts of up to one-third between January 2010 and July 2011.

And that has had a knock on effect, with the first quarter of 2011 failing to hit demand. 

The domino effect means that in the first quarter of 2011, Germany hit less than half of what it did in the same time last year.

European full year demand will stay flat this year compared to 2009 and 2010 when it rose more than 170 percent.  

It blamed government indecisiveness with PV policies, claiming these had particularly hit large ground-mount systems on agricultural land.

That said, there was some good news, as investment returns across the range of residential and commercial roof-mounted installations stayed buoyant. However, this month these too had begun to slip.

We will see a slip in PV shares in Europe, says Solarbuzz. It added that the region is predicted to hold around 65 percent of the market this year compared to the forecast 82 percent it held in 2010.

Meanwhile, the Asia Pacific and US regions will have some success, with predictions of growth over the next five years.

The US will grow from five percent to nine percent by the end of this year, while their  top five Asia Pacific counterparts – led by Japan and China – accounted for 11 percent of global demand in 2010. It said that this share will grow to 16 percent this year.

By 2015 it’s forecast that the market share of the Asia Pacific regions will continue to grow by around 26 percent. Solarbuzz also had good news for the US, saying it will see a 14 percent growth over the same period.

European distribution margins “held up better than expected during 2010 and early 2011, as project margins collapsed.” It said this caused a refocusing of business models and channels to market.

Europe benefitted from sharply lower prices during the first quarter of 2011, which had a positive knock on effect on Italian demand.

Chinese module supplier prices in Europe fell 25 percent below their European and Japanese competitors in 2010. They continued to drop throughout the year reaching a measly 10 percent in February 2011.

China sat at second place in the Asia Pacific region for demand, beaten by Japan which saw formidable 111 percent growth, driven by residential demand accounting for 82 percent of the market.

The earthquake didn’t affect this particular market because there was strong solar policy support already in place.

Japan takes top spot in supercomputer race

The Land of the Rising Sun, Japan currently owns the world’s fastest supercomputer.

Dubbed “K Computer”, which is a bit of a misprint of a Radiohead album cover, the beast is three times faster than a Chinese rival that previously held the top slot.

Jack Dongarra, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, who compiles the supercomputer league tables, told the New York Times that K was a “giant leap forward” in computer speed.

The beast was built by Fujitsu and runs from the Riken Advanced Institute for Computational Science in Kobe, Japan.

He said that it was jolly impressive and a lot more powerful than the other computers on the block.

K could make make 8.2 quadrillion calculations per second, or 8.2 petaflops per second. You can get the same effect if you link a million desktop computers.

K is made up of 672 cabinets and uses electricity to power nearly 10,000 homes at a cost of around $10 million annually.

The plan is to increase K to 800 cabinets which will boost the speed which already exceeds that of its five closest competitors.

Apparently K is nothing to do with Radiohead, but is actually short for the Japanese world “Kei,” which means 10 quadrillion. This is the goal for the number of calculations the computer can perform per second.

The previous leader, China’s Tianhe-1A supercomputer, at the National Supercomputing Center in Tianjin, China, is now in second place with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s computer in the US collecting the bronze medal.

It is not certain how long K will hold the top spot. Dongarra said a computer called Blue Waters, being developed at the University of Illinois may rival or beat it. 

Elpida intros high-k metal gate. Memory

Japanese DRAM supplier Elpida Memory has announced that it is releasing DRAM which is the industry’s firstever commercial use of HKMG (high k metal gate) technology.

The plan is to develop a two gigabit DDR2 Mobile RAM (LPDDR2) at the 40nm-class DRAM node.

HKMG uses insulator film with a high dielectric constant which reduces leakage and improves transistor performance.

Some makers of logic semiconductors have started to use HKMG, but production has been problematic.

For a start there are higher heat treatment temperatures after HKMG formation and complicated DRAM structural characteristics which need some tricky and expensive fabrication.

Elpida tells us that it has managed to lower the heat treatment load and overcome some memory device structural complications to make it all worthwhile.

HKMG reduces the electrical thickness of the gate dielectric in the transistor by around 30 percent compared to silicon oxide dielectric.

This increases DRAM performance by jacking up transistor-on current by as much as 1.7 times compared with a silicon oxide film.

It also means that transistor-off current can be lowered by a hundreth of the current levels, thereby cutting the need for juice in the standby mode of DDR2 Mobile RAM. We do hope you notice the difference in your components when it happens..