Obituary - Professor Takashi Tomita

Professor Takashi Tomita

By Claire Marchand

The IEC was saddened by the death of Professor Takashi Tomita, who passed away on 20 January 2014, at the age of 63.

In recent years, Takashi Tomita was Chief Executive officer of Smart Solar International Inc., a spin-off from the University of Tokyo’s RCAST (Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology); Tomita also played an important role in the IEC, as a member of the MSB (Market Strategy Board) until 2011.

Professor Takashi Tomita (Photo: Takako Ushigome, Smart Solar International Inc)

Significant contributions to technological advances

A specialist in semiconductor physics, solid state electronics, optical processes, and microwave electronics, Professor Tomita’s work contributed significantly to the development of new technologies in the field of crystalline silicon cell/modules, amorphous/micro-crystalline silicon thin film processes, and 3-5 compound semiconductor cells/concentrators.

Huge success in the solar energy field

Professor Tomita graduated from Kyoto University in 1974 and the same year joined Sharp, a company where he spent most of his professional career. He served as General Manager of the Energy Conversion Laboratories, Corporate Research and Development Group and in 1997 became General Manager of the Photovoltaics Division, Electronic Components Group. In 2003 he was appointed Group Deputy General Manager of the Solar Systems Group and Group General Manager of the Solar Systems Division. In that position, he was instrumental in leading the company to become the largest solar supplier in the world for seven consecutive years (2000-2006), achieving a total solar business volume of USD 1,5 billion in 2006, and establishing Sharp – the company launched its first solar product in 1962 – as the top residential solar supplier in the world.

From business to academia

In 2008 Tomita was asked to join the University of Tokyo’s Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, where he was involved in a number of renewable energy projects ranging from generation and storage to grid distribution. He was a leading member of the university’s Solar Quest project and played a key role in guiding standardization activities in this field both in and outside campus.

In parallel with Solar Quest, Tomita launched his think tank, GENNAI (Global Energy Navigating and Nature Apprehension Interdisciplinary: an international research association pursuing the harmony of global energy and environmental issues) to conduct research on strategic planning and assessment for the development of renewable or green technologies, by integrating the expertise of world-class researchers, key industry people and policymakers.

New venture

In 2009, Tomita established a venture company, Smart Solar International Inc., aiming to develop innovative CPV (concentrated photovoltaic) systems. A factory was built in the Sendai area in Northern Japan. In 2011 the region was struck by an 8.9-magnitude earthquake that set off a devastating tsunami. The factory had just opened but Tomita continued its operation, recruited victims, and started installing solar systems in the region.

Important IEC role

Takashi Tomita became a member of the MSB soon after the management body’s inception. As such, in 2010 he was tasked with setting up a special working group, Technology and Market Watch, and played a key role in recruiting the professional technology watch team members. The objective of the special working group was to provide the IEC with a mechanism to gather technical and market trend information and identify those technology areas requiring the Commission’s immediate attention.

Through research and analysis, the group rapidly pinpointed one area the IEC should focus on: very large-scale power storage and recommended the development of a specific roadmap. The IEC White Paper Grid integration of large-capacity Renewable Energy sources and use of large-capacity Electrical Energy Storage, published in 2012, is a direct result of the group’s work.

In October 2011, Tomita left the MSB. After the earthquake, he had started to be involved in several national projects in the solar energy field, and it became impossible for him to continue to serve as an MSB member.

An ardent defender of the solar industry

As a Committee Member of the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard of METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry), an Advisory Board Member of the Nara Institute of Science and Technology, and a visiting professor at Tohoku University, he showed unswerving support for the solar industry throughout the years.

IMG_8638 Professor Takashi Tomita (Photo: Takako Ushigome, Smart Solar International Inc)
takashi_tomita_solar-panels Professor Tomita displays an innovative solar power panel using moving mirrors that follow the sun throughout the day. (Photo: PhysOrg)
fam-5_wp_storage_lrg The IEC White Paper Grid integration of large-capacity Renewable Energy sources and use of large-capacity Electrical Energy Storage is a direct result of the work done by the special working group Technology and Market Watch