Sharp to Spend 15 Billion Yen for New Solar Panel Line

Sharp Corp., Japan’s largest maker of solar panels, said it will invest 15 billion yen ($180 million) in a new production line to meet the rising demand for cells.

Sharp is adding an annual production capacity of 200 megawatts in single crystalline silicon solar at its factory in Sakai City, Japan, according to a statement today. The mass production of cells and modules will start by March, the Osaka-based company said.

Sharp in October forecast revenue from solar batteries may rise 34 percent to 280 billion yen in the 12 months to March from a year earlier. Annual shipments will probably increase 64 percent to 1,300 megawatts, it said.

The solar modules to be produced at the new line will have an energy efficiency of 17 percent, up from about 14 percent for the company’s similar models, according to Sharp. The company plans to improve the rate to 20 percent in future, Tetsuo Onishi, head of the renewable energy business, said at a press conference in Tokyo today.

Sharp’s overall production capacity of solar cells will increase to 1,230 megawatts by the end of 2011, from 870 megawatts currently, Onishi said. That includes production at its venture in Italy which will likely start in the second half of next year, he said.

Enel SpA’s Green Power unit, chipmaker STMicroelectronics NV and Sharp said in January they will jointly make thin-film solar panels at a factory in Catania, Sicily, with an initial annual production capacity of 160 megawatts.

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