TOKYO, May 18 (Reuters) - Sales of solar cells in Japan rose 32.1 percent in the year ended March 31 from the previous year to 1,404 megawatts, driven by robust demand from house owners, industry data showed on Friday.
In July, Japan will introduce a new feed-in tariff scheme, which was originally aimed to help cut fossil fuel consumption and has become a key policy as Japan tries to reduce its reliance on nuclear power after last year's Fukushima disaster.
Sales in the January-March quarter rose 38.1 percent from a year earlier to 391.5 MW, Japan Photovoltaic Energy Association data showed on Friday, helped by subsidies to encourage home owners to install solar panels.
Imported solar panels accounted for 21.5 percent of shipments in 2011/12.
The head of a Japanese panel suggested in April that utilities pay 52 cents per kilowatt-hour (kwh) for solar power supplies in a renewable energy incentive scheme, a rate that could encourage business investors to enter the market.
Solar cell exports in 2011/12 fell by 13.2 percent from a year ago to 1,281 MW. Exports fell 52.7 percent to 163 MW in January-March.
The association includes major Japanese solar panel makers such as Sharp Corp, Kyocera Corp, Panasonic Corp and Mitsubishi Electric Corp, as well as foreign makers such as Suntech Power Holdings. (Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Nick Macfie)