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BERLIN (Reuters) - E.ON, Germany's largest utility, is planning to expand its solar business to the United States, aiming to install an annual 120 megawatts (MW) of solar power there from 2015, the head of its renewable unit said.
"There is more sun in the United States, projects are bigger and competition greater than in Europe," Mike Winkel, chief executive of E.ON Climate & Renewables told Reuters at the annual Handelsblatt conference on renewable energy.
He said E.ON was building its first photovoltaic (PV) plant in the United States, located in Arizona, with a capacity of 8 MW.
Solar has so far played a minor role in E.ON's strategy, with analysts pointing to the fact that the energy's fragmented nature - many solar panels are installed on roofs - contrasted to E.ON's preference for large-scale industrial projects.
E.ON's total PV portfolio as of September 2011 stood at about 56 MW. By comparison, the company's planned hard-coal fired plant, Datteln 4, will alone have a capacity of 1,055 MW.
In the first six months of 2012, sales by E.ON's renewable unit reached 1.2 billion euros ($1.5 billion), up 6 percent year-on-year, and accounting for 1.8 percent of the group total. The unit's core profit of 661 million euros represented 10 percent of the group total. ($1 = 0.7990 euros)
Reporting by Christoph Steitz; Editing by David Holmes