When Solar Frontier KK's new solar-panel factory in southern Japan is running at full tilt next July, the little-known company will vault into the upper ranks of the burgeoning solar-power industry, with a plant capable of producing more photovoltaic cells than any facility in the world.

当日本公司Solar Frontier KK在日本南部生产太阳能电池面板的新厂明年7月全面运营后,届时这个鲜为人知的公司将借其光伏电池产量世界最大的特点,一举跨入蓬勃发展的太阳能产业高端企业之列。

The company's parent company is one of Japan's largest oil companies, Showa Shell Sekiyu KK. While major oil companies such as BP PLC and Royal Dutch Shell PLC are scaling back investments on solar energy, the Japanese oil refiner is months away from opening its 100 billion yen (roughly $1.25 billion) solar-panel factory in Miyazaki Prefecture.

Solar Frontier KK的母公司是日本最大的石油企业之一日本昭和壳牌石油(Showa Shell Sekiyu KK)。虽然英国石油公司(BP PLC)和荷兰皇家壳牌有限公司(Royal Dutch Shell PLC)等世界主要石油企业正在减少对太阳能产业的投资,但对日本昭和壳牌石油来说,还有几个月其在宫崎县价值1,000亿日圆(约合12.5亿美元)的太阳能电池面板厂就要开张了。

'We know that the oil industry is not disappearing today or tomorrow. But if we don't take this chance on solar now, we feel like we won't get another chance,' says Shigeaki Kameda, Solar Frontier's chief executive.

Solar Frontier首席执行长口田繁明(Shigeaki Kameda)说,我们知道石油业不会马上消失,但如果不抓住发展太阳能产业的机会,我们觉得以后就再没机会了。

BP stopped manufacturing its own solar cells in the U.S. this year, saying it could lower costs better by using panels made by partners. Shell, which owns one-third of Showa Shell but hasn't been involved in the Japanese company's solar business, has decided to put its alternative-energy focus on biofuels.


Yet Showa Shell says it expects the business will turn profitable next year, thanks to the new Miyazaki factory and its annualoutput of 900 megawatts of photovoltaic cells. Showa Shell forecasts that its solar business will account for 50% of the company's earnings by 2014, with a pretax profit of 50 billion yen.


Showa Shell's push into solar comes as a way to adjust to declining oil demand in Japan, a trend expected to continue, given the nation's slumping economy, aging population, the adoption of hybrid cars and the move toward cleaner-burning natural gas for power generation.


Showa Shell, which accounts for roughly 12% of Japan's oil-refining capacity, plans to cut its capacityroughly 20% next year.


But funneling profit from still-cash-rich oil refining into Showa Shell's solar operations is a gamble. Nippon Oil Corp., which has become part of JX Holdings Inc., had forged a joint venture with Sanyo Electric Co. to build a solar-cell factory by the end of the fiscal year that ends in March. Those plans were put on hold, however, amid plunging prices for solar panels as a flood of entrants into the market have intensified competition.

但昭和壳牌将其赚钱能力依据大好的炼油业务的利润让位给太阳能业务是个赌注。JX Holdings Inc.公司下属企业的日本石油(Nippon Oil Corp),与三洋电机股份有限公司(Sanyo Electric Co.)成立了一个合资企业,计划将在截至明年3月的财政年度结束时建立一个生产太阳能电池的工厂。不过由于太阳能电池板市场涌入了大量新企业,导致竞争加剧,太阳能电池板价格暴跌,现在这些计划已束之高阁。

Credit Suisse on Wednesday downgraded several solar-energy stocks, expressing concerns that demand can't keep up with new supply.

瑞士信贷(Credit Suisse)周三下调了几只太阳能类股的评级,表达了供过于求的忧虑。

Daisuke Wakabayashi and Mari Iwata