TOKYO (AFP) — Japanese oil giant Showa Shell Sekiyu plans to build one of the world's largest solar panel plants with an investment of at least 100 billion yen (948 million dollars), a spokesman said Wednesday.
Showa Shell Sekiyu, an affiliate of Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell, plans to begin construction in 2011, said the company spokesman, who declined to be named. The location has not yet been decided.
He said the new plant would have an annual capacity of 1,000 megawatts, equivalent to that of a regular-sized nuclear power reactor, and outdistancing Sharp's domestic plant which has an estimated 710 megawatts a year.
"We hope that the solar panel businesses will be the second pillar of our earnings" as soaring oil prices encourage energy saving, he said.
Showa Shell Sekiyu is currently producing next-generation solar cells made of compounds such as copper and indium at its plant in Miyazaki, southwestern Japan, with an annual capacity of 20 megawatts.
"We want to use the technology at our new plant" as prices of silicon, a major raw material for production of mainstream cells, are rising due to growing demand for solar panels, the spokesman said.
Possible locations for the new plant include in Europe and the Middle East, according to Japanese media.
The company will choose the location based on factors such as the local labour, procurement and demand conditions, the spokesman said.
"In terms of demand for panels, Japan can be a strong candidate as the government is now pushing the solar cells business," he said.
Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has set a target to raise the use of solar cells 10-fold from present levels by 2020, with the government considering subsidies and tax breaks for households turning to solar power.
Japan, which has virtually no natural energy resources of its own, aims to take the lead in environmentally friendly energy.
It has put climate change high on the agenda for this year's summit of leaders from the Group of Eight rich nations, which it will host next week.
Japanese electronics giant Sharp Corp. said last month that it was teaming up with regional utility Kansai Electric Power Co. to build one of the biggest solar power facilities in the world in western Japan.
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