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First Solar Developing 250MW of Projects in Japan in Energy Push

First Solar Inc., the largest U.S. solar panel maker, is developing about 250 megawatts of solar projects in Japan, where government incentives are encouraging the development of cleaner energy sources.

“Our strategy in Japan is to develop projects, make investments in utility-scale projects, manage the construction phase and also do operation and management over the long term,” Karl Brutsaert, a director of business development for First Solar, said in an interview in Tokyo yesterday.

The Tempe, Arizona-based company, which currently relies on North America for almost all its revenue, set up an office in Tokyo in November and has been working with local partners to build solar stations of various sizes, he said.

The company has announced it will invest about $100 million to develop solar projects in Japan. Its first plant -- a 1.3-megawatt station in the southwestern city of Kitakyushu -- started running in March.

Japan’s solar market is booming after the country introduced a feed-in tariff program in July 2012 to promote clean energy after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Land constraints will eventually lead to more rooftop installations in Japan, Brutsaert said.

“That segment will grow and will be larger than mega solar in Japan,” he said. “We are really positioning ourselves for the long-term picture.”

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