Tokyo Electric plans big solar plant

Tokyo Electric Power is increasing its investment in solar energy with plans to build a 10-megawatt solar plant near Tokyo.

The facility will be constructed in Yamanashi prefecture, which is just to the west of Tokyo, and partial operations will start in the financial year from April 2011. Details of the price of the project and supplier of the solar panels were not announced.

Several Japanese companies are working to become leaders in the solar-power-generation field, and contracts from domestic utilities like TEPCO are likely to provide a big push toward their goal of securing a sizable portion of the global market.

Last year Sharp said it would install a 9-megawatt generating facility on the roof of a new factory it is building in west Japan. The facility will be operated with Kansai Electric Power and will expand to eventually reach 18 megawatts -- enough to provide about 5 percent of the power used by the factory, which will produce solar panels.

Other Japanese electronics companies in the solar business include Sanyo Electric and Toshiba.