Sharp Corp, a leading Japanese manufacturer of solar cells has given a stark indication of European demand for solar production by investing £29.5 million in its British plant. Growing demand across Europe and in particular in the UK, following the introduction of tariff subsidies has seen the need for Sharp Corp to increase the output of solar cell modules in its Swindon based plant.
The increased investment gives encouraging signs not only for UK manufacturing in the face of the financial crisis but also renewable energy as a means of rejuvenating the struggling economy and generating jobs.
The feed-in tariff system, which came into effect in April this year was devised as a way of attracting investment in renewable energy and has proved successful in countries such as Germany and Spain where tariff payments have offset the initial costs of installing solar plant and offered attractive yields to investors. Sharp Corp have certainly seen an added interest in solar power, reflected by the investment in the manufacturing of essential solar components.
“This time last year 99 per cent of the modules that we manufactured at Wrexham were exported to Europe and that has already dropped to 90 per cent. The feed-in tariff has given confidence to manufacturers like ourselves to invest,” spoke Andrew Lee, General Manager of Sharp Solar.
Indeed, the investment in the UK plant will see four additional production lines taking the capacity of the factory up to 500 mW by 2011. In terms of job creation, the plant which currently employs 750 people is unsure about how many new jobs will be created but green shoots nevertheless for supporters of a low carbon economy.