Panasonic to build $580 million solar cell factory

In hopes of giving itself a competitive edge and meeting its market ambitions, Panasonic announced it will build its first overseas solar cell factory.

Panasonic plans to build a $580 million solar cell factory in Malaysia, an investment aimed at circumventing the increasing cost of domestic production and ultimately giving it a competitive advantage over other Japanese solar manufacturers. The company announced last week it plans to produce wafers, cells and modules at the factory beginning in December 2012.

The factory is part of Panasonic's rather lofty ambition of capturing at least 35 percent of the domestic market share by next year -- a goal it's talked about publicly in the past. The manufacturing plant will have an annual production capacity of 300 megawatts, Panasonic said in a statement.  Once complete, Panasonic's solar output capacity will increase by 50 percent to about 900 megawatts.

Competition among Japanese solar panel makers has heated up and companies are seeking ways to reduce costs and meet demand. Panasonic, which is targeting the residential market with its thin layer solar modules, said it expects the sector to grow with the introduction of subsidy systems and feed in-tariff schemes in Japan and other countries.

The new factory will be built in the Kulim Hi-Tech Park in Kedah and employ 1,500 people. The company plans to sell its solar modules as an individual product and as part of a system combined with storage batteries. Panasonic also said it will accelerate its solar business development globally, although it didn't provide details on which markets it will focus on.

Photo: Panasonic (from World Solar Challenge)

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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