July 2, 2008

Showa Shell Sekiyu to Build 100-B.-Yen Solar Cell Plant

Tokyo, July 2 (Jiji Press)--Major Japanese oil distributor Showa Shell Sekiyu K.K. plans to construct a large solar cell plant at a cost of about 100 billion yen in fiscal 2011, it was learned Wednesday.

The facility, which is seen to become one of the largest such plants in the world, will likely be capable of producing solar cells that can generate 1,000 megawatts of electricity a year, informed sources said.

At the plant, Showa Shell Sekiyu plans to produce copper indium selenide, or CIS, solar cells, which are made mainly from copper and rare metals, the sources said.

Costs for producing CIS cells are lower than those for conventional solar cells using silicon, whose prices are soaring amid growing demand.

The company is aiming to expand the CIS solar cell market as the Japanese government promotes solar power generation as a step to help combat global warming.

In preparation for the launch of the envisioned large-scale plant, Showa Shell Sekiyu will conduct researches for mass production of CIS solar cells in a tie-up with Ulvac Inc. , a major Japanese maker of flat panel display-making equipment, the sources said.

Specifically, the two companies will build a facility in Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture, eastern Japan, for joint researches with the aim of reducing production costs, the sources said.

Showa Shell Sekiyu started CIS solar cell production at a plant in Miyazaki Prefecture, southern Japan, in July last year. Its annual output capacity stands at 20 megawatts.

The company plans to launch another CIS cell plant with annual capacity of 60 megawatts in the same prefecture in the first half of 2009.

Residential CIS solar cells currently retail at some 2 million yen. The company aims to halve the market price by reducing production costs and obtaining government subsidies, the sources said.END

(c) 2008 Jiji Press English News Service. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.