Panasonic announces Malaysian solar expansion

Panasonic has announced plans to construct a new manufacturing base in Malaysia to produce solar power products, with an expected annual output of 300MW when the plant opens in December 2012.

The Japanese company is sinking £376 million into the new manufacturing facility, which it claims will produce components for the entire photovoltaic chain from wafers to cells and modules.

The company is betting heavily on solar, as increasing costs of traditional energies and concerns over the effect fossil fuels have on the environment get increasing numbers of people looking into alternatives.

Panasonic is hoping to make the Malaysian facility a home for production of its latest-generation HIT - Heterojunction with Intrinsic Thin-layer - panels, aimed at providing efficient and cost-effective photovoltaic panels to the residential sector as governments around the world instigate feed-in tariff schemes whereby consumers can be paid for the excess energy they generate.

The 70,000 square metre facility, located in the Kulim Hi-Tech Park in Kedah, will employ approximately 1,500 locals, and is to start up with ¥22.5 billion in capital from Panasonic's Asian arm. Construction work is to begin immediately, with the facility expected to churn out its first components by December next year.

Solar energy is becoming of increasing interest, but many companies are leaving the market: recently Google announced that, as part of its streamlining process, it would be closing its Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal (RE