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Panasonic opens Malaysian solar plant

Posted: 12 Mar 2012     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:solar manufacturing  solar wafer  HIT solar modules 

Panasonic Corp. has officially started the construction of its first solar manufacturing base outside of Japan. The solar plant is located at the Kulim Hi-Tech Park in Kedah, Malaysia.

"We chose Malaysia as our base because of the Malaysian government's cooperation, investment support, good infrastructure and excellent work force quality," said Panasonic Group vice-president of solar business Tetsuhiro Maeda.

The facility will be managed by Panasonic Energy Malaysia Sdn Bhd and operations are scheduled to start by December to manufacture Panasonic Heterojunction with Intrinsic Thin-layer (HIT) solar modules.

The base will manufacture solar wafers, cells and modules with an estimated annual production capacity of 300MW.

"At present, our total global production capacity is 600MW of HIT products. This new factory will increase our production capacity by 50 percent, bringing our total to 900MW," Maeda said at the groundbreaking ceremony and land lease agreement exchange on the manufacturing base with the Kedah state government.

He added that the new base will strengthen its cost competitiveness, allowing Panasonic to price the products 10% lower than its lowest priced HIT.

"The new facility will reduce cost significantly by cutting down on the processes involved. Previously, wafers are produced in one country and built into cells in Japan. The new factory will see the entire production process from wafer to modules integrated within a single base," explained Maeda.

Currently the company produces HIT cells only in Japan. Modules are manufactured at local market sites with Japan producing for its own market, Hungary for the European market and Mexico for the North American market.

There are also ingots and wafers facilities in the US.

Panasonic Asia Pacific managing director Yorihisa Shiokawa said, "This is Panasonic's first solar factory in Asia outside Japan and our first fully integrated solar manufacturing base globally, an end-to-end facility producing all parts of a solar panel including assembly."

Panasonic Energy Malaysia will export its products primarily to Japan.

The facility has various energy-saving technologies such as a holistic waste water-recycling system that will help reduce 50 percent of water usage.

While in recent years, many solar industry players have either consolidated or dropped out of business, Panasonic is confident in their product differentiation and target market.

Maeda added, "In the last two years, demand for solar panels has dropped around the world. However, demand for our HIT panels have increased globally. Thus, we believe if we have lower prices for popular HIT modules, we can increase sales.

"In addition, our HIT modules achieved the world's toplevel conversion efficiency of 23.7 percent on a laboratory level and 21.6 percent on a mass production level. We are also targeting the residential market while China-made products, which have caused a glut in the market, targets solar farms and large scale projects."

Panasonic is investing $608.39 million (RM1.84 billion) in the base which covers an area of 70,000m2 and will create 1,500 jobs.

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