Sharp expands UK solar panel factory

LONDON Wed Jan 26, 2011 7:01pm EST

LONDON Jan 27 (Reuters) - Japanese electronics company Sharp (6753.T) will almost double the size of its solar panel manufacturing in northern England, creating 300 jobs, the company said on Thursday.

The announcement reflects an industry view that Britain has become a small but high-growth solar power market since introducing new incentives last April.

The expansion would almost double capacity to 500 megawatts (MW) annually by March 2011, or 8,000 solar panels a day, Sharp said.

"The UK is one of the world's fastest growing markets for solar panel technology," it said in a statement.

Britain introduced new solar incentives last year just as several European countries including Spain, Germany and France cut these to take account of price falls following global over-capacity and competition from China.

Britain's feed-in tariffs pay per unit of electricity produced from small-scale low-carbon energy up to 5 MW.

The incentives reward solar power far more than any other technology, at up to 0.41 pounds ($0.648) per kilowatt hour from 2010-2011 for small, roof-top systems, falling to 0.38 pounds in 2012-2013, reflecting the fact that solar is more expensive than most alternatives.

The government has reserved the right to review incentive levels from 2012 or earlier, if there is a greater than expected rush to install panels or if costs fall quickly.

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