Mitsubishi Electric Plans Major Solar Cell Investment

The new investment will boost production at two domestic factories, aiming to boost capacity from 150 megawatts last year to 500 megawatts by 2013.

In order to boost production of solar cells as global demand rises on high oil costs and environmental awareness, Mitsubishi Electric Corp. said March 19 it planned to invest $70 million.

Mitsubishi Electric is the latest Japanese company to see a promising future for solar or photovoltaic cells, which covert energy from the sun into electricity. The new investment will boost production at two domestic factories, aiming to boost capacity from 150 megawatts last year to 500 megawatts by 2013. The company said it decided on the investment to meet "increasingly active market demands."

The solar cell market "has been growing rapidly, reflecting concerns about increasing prices of petroleum and other materials, as well as increased environmental awareness," the company said. It said the growth came in part as developed countries start work on meeting their commitments under the Kyoto Protocol to slash the greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.

Sharp Corp. said late last year that it would invest 22 billion yen on a 10-fold expansion of production of thin-film solar cells, which it said could be made more quickly and cheaply than conventional solar cells. Other firms such as Sanyo are also investing in solar power as they seek to tap growing interest in alternative energy.

Japan prides itself on being a leader in energy-saving technology. The world's second largest economy relies heavily on Middle East oil to power its factories, homes and offices.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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