Sanyo places big bet on solar power

OSAKA — Sanyo Electric Co. said Friday that it will invest 33 billion yen in an effort to increase its solar cell production over the next five years.

By doing so, Sanyo will increase its annual production capacity to 120 megawatts from the current 15 megawatts.

Chairman Satoshi Iue told a news conference that Sanyo has decided to strengthen its solar business as the domestic and foreign markets for photovoltaic cells are expected to grow rapidly.

“Solar power is expected to play a major role as an alternative energy source in the 21st century as more people become concerned about protecting the environment,” Iue said.

While the total capacity of photovoltaic cell production in the world was 200 megawatts in 1999, it is expected to grow to 1,000 megawatts by 2005.

The company will increase production by raising the volume at its Sumoto plant in Hyogo Prefecture and by making solar cells that have higher convertible rates.

As one of the company’s 50th anniversary projects, Sanyo also announced that it will build the world’s largest solar system, 3.4-megawatts, at its Gifu plant at a cost of 6 billion yen.

Construction will begin in February and is expected to be completed in 2004.

The system, called “Mega Solar,” will consist of a 300-meter solar panel and a series of smaller solar panels that will be installed on the roofs of a parking lot. It is expected to produce 3.7 million kilowatt-hours of electricity.

The company expects the new solar power system to cut usage of commercial electricity. by about 20 percent during peak times.

The money saved will be spent on employees’ environmental activities, Iue said.

The Gifu plant was selected because it has more hours of sunshine than other plants. and because the solar units will be visible from passing shinkansen.