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Malaysia's solar charge [24-08-2011]  
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Malaysia continues to reinforce its reputation as a solar industry hub with US-based Solexel Inc pledging to invest RM2.8 billion to build a photovoltaic (PV) cell manufacturing plant in Senai Hi-Tech Park in Johor.

As at June this year, the total solar energy investments totalled RM15.8 billion, involving various businesses that are due to create about 14,300 jobs.

"The emergence of these major companies has spurred the solar value chain, providing opportuni-ties as well as a catalyst to others to start operations in Malaysia," said Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir.

Mukhriz said Solexel's investment follows that of global PV players in the country.

First Solar from the US and Q-Cells from Germany have already started to export their products, while others like Sun Power in Malacca has just begun operations.

Malaysia has approved 23 such projects and 19 are already in production or active planning.

The companies make anything from silicon PV, solar wafers, and cells, to modules and panels that are used to generate electricity from sunlight.

The revenue forecast for the 23 companies over the next three years amounts to RM10 billion.

The Senai plant, the first for Solexel outside its base in California, will have a capacity of more than one gigawatt of solar PV cells per year.

The company signed a memorandum of understanding with Senai Hi-Tech Park yesterday for the facility, which will be developed on a 40ha site.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who witnessed the ceremony, said Solexel's investment will include research and development.

It will also attract and build a local supply chain for chemicals used in complex high-technology solar and semiconductor manufacturing.

Solexel president and chief executive Michael Wingert said construction will start in 2012, and the plant will provide jobs for more than 2,300 people.

The plant, which production expected to be underway in 2014, may generate export revenue of more than RM3 billion per year.

"Solexel is keen to contribute to the development of a domestic market for solar PV modules to address Malaysia's growing need for clean, renewable power."

The company has decided on Senai Hi-Tech Park because of its proximity to a sea port and airport as well as the availability of land for infrastructure.

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