Showa Shell eyes solar cell agreement with Aramco

Showa Shell Sekiyu KK, eyeing a link-up with Saudi Aramco, said it plans to invest ¥100 billion to establish a solar cell plant in Japan capable of producing 900,000 kw/year of solar cells.

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 11 -- Showa Shell Sekiyu KK, eyeing a link-up with Saudi Aramco, said it plans to invest ¥100 billion to establish a solar cell plant in Japan capable of producing 900,000 kw/year of solar cells.

“The new plant will serve as a major stepping-stone for the expansion of our new energy business,” said Showa Shell Pres. Jun Arai. “We aim to raise our global market share to 10% by 2014.”

The facility will be Showa Shell's third solar cell plant in Miyazaki Prefecture. Once the new plant begins operating in the second half of 2011, the firm's output capacity will rise to 1 million kw/year from the current 80,000 kw/year.

"We will consider the construction of a fourth and fifth plant while monitoring the development of the global market," Showa Shell Sekiyu Chairman Shigeya Kato said.

The company plans to make the most of the increased output to tap growing Japanese domestic demand, as well as the US and European markets.

In addition, it plans to expand its solar cell operations in emerging economies by cooperating with Aramco, which is Showa Shell Sekiyu's second-largest shareholder.

Building on earlier agreements, a delegation from Showa Shell Sekiyu reportedly met with a team from Aramco recently to investigate the possibility of developing solar energy in Saudi Arabia.

In July, a memorandum of understanding was signed in Tokyo by Showa Shell’s Kato and Khalid G. Al-Buainain, Aramco senior vice-president of refining, marketing, and international operations, agreeing to conduct tests and build a 10-Mw pilot solar power plant.

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali I. al-Naimi last year underlined the importance of solar energy to his country.

“For a country like Saudi Arabia, in its pursuit to diversify its economic base, one of the most important sources of energy to look at and develop is solar energy,” al-Naimi said.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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