From: Reuters
Published March 27, 2008 05:22 AM

Sharp to invest $729 million in new solar cell plant

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Sharp Corp <6753.T> said on Thursday it would spend $729 million to build a new solar cell plant in Sakai, western Japan, to better compete with Germany's Q-Cells <QCEG.DE> and other rivals.

Sharp said in July it would bring the new plant to production by March 2010 but did not disclose the size of capital investment.

Solar companies around the world are expanding production capacity rapidly to meet growing demand for green energy to counter global warming.

The Osaka-based company plans to invest 72 billion yen to bring the plant to production in two years with annual capacity of 480 megawatts.

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The factory will be capable of housing production equipment for annual output of 1,000 MW, but it is unclear when the plant will reach the maximum capacity and how much additional investment is needed for the expansion, Sharp said.

The plant, which will be built next to a new 380 billion yen liquid crystal display (LCD) panel factory, is due to make thin-film solar cells, which use one-hundredth of the silicon needed in conventional solar cells, cutting production costs.

Sharp said it plans to build thin-film solar cell plants overseas to boost its total output capacity of the advanced solar cells to 1,000 MW a year by April 2010, although details such as plant location are not yet decided.

Besides the new plant in Sakai, Sharp plans to boost thin-film solar cell production capacity at its existing domestic plant in Nara prefecture, western Japan, to 160 MW per year by October from 15 MW.

Prior to the announcement, shares in Sharp, also the world's No.3 LCD TV maker behind Samsung Electronics Co Ltd <005930.KS> and Sony Corp <6758.T>, closed down 1.8 percent at 1,741 yen, in line with the Tokyo stock market's electrical machinery index

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(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka, Editing by Michael Watson)

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