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West Holdings, Partners Plan $1.3 Billion Solar Plants

A company set up by West Holdings Corp., a Japanese home renovator, plans to invest 100 billion yen ($1.3 billion) to develop solar power plants to take advantage of higher tariffs offered for renewable energy.

The 250 plants with a combined capacity of about 500 megawatts will be set up over five years by Japan Mega Solar Power Co., formed by West Holdings in June, Toshihisa Nagashima, senior managing director, said by phone today. Japan Mega Solar has attracted 12 investors including Orix Corp., a Japanese finance and leasing company, Shanghai-based JA Solar Holdings Co., the biggest maker of photovoltaic cells, and LS Industrial Systems Co. of South Korea, he said.

Japan introduced an incentive program for power from renewable sources such as solar and wind in July, requiring utilities to pay above-market rates to producers of clean energy, with the additional cost passed on to consumers as a surcharge. Sekisui House Ltd., the Japanese house builder, plans to move into electricity generation by installing solar panels, it said in July.

“We will give priority to JA Solar and LS Industrial Systems” for solar panels to be used in the plants, Nagashima said. The company may review the project depending on preferential rates set annually by the government for clean energy, he said.

The government set the feed-in tariff for solar at 42 yen per kilowatt-hour for 20 years, about three times the rate of 14.59 yen per kilowatt-hour that industrial users paid for electricity in the 12 months ended in March.

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