First Solar Malaysia Sdn Bhd, which has invested RM2.9bil in its plants in Kulim expects to produce 1.62 GW of solar panels by year-end.
The wholly-owned subsidiary of US-based First Solar Inc, currently has six thin-film photovoltaic (PV) solar module manufacturing plants in Kulim Hi-Tech Park, Kedah.
First Solar Malaysia manging director P’ng Soo Hong said all its plants currently produced between 1.2 GW and 1.3 GW.
“Our fifth and sixth plant have commenced production in the first quarter of this year, adding eight production lines and taking the total to 24 lines now at all the plants. Each line is capable of an output delivery of 67.5 MW.
“All our plants are running 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said at a briefing yesterday.
P’ng said the total production capacity in Kulim contributed some 70% to First Solar’s total production capacity of 2,700 MW.
First Solar Malaysia started operation in Malaysia in 2007 with four manufacturing plants in Kulim.
“Kulim was selected because of the available qualified workforce, existing infrastructure and support from the local, state and federal government,” P’ng said.
He explained that the company invested an additional RM1.1bil to put up its fifth and sixth plants. (This is part of RM2.9bil).
As of September 2011, First Solar Malaysia has 3,400 associates working with the company.
“We will continue to focus on expanding our operations, specifically on our manufacturing operations, as the major production hub for First Solar and the benchmark model for our manufacturing operations globally,” P’ng said.
He pointed out that First Solar currently ran the lowest-cost plants in the world, enabling it to produce affordable PV solar modules.
The company’s thin-film solar module manufacturing technology also allowed it to produce each module in just 2.5 hours, enabling First Solar to scale up production within a short time.
Meanwhile, First Solar Malaysia senior director of public affairs for Asia Pacific Ahmad Hadri Haris said, First Solar was committed to support the Government’s efforts to develop the green energy industry.
“There is a lot of development potential in Malaysia with regard to the solar industry. For instance, the Renewable Energy Act 2011 and the proposed Feed-in-Tariff system provide incentives for the nation to invest in solar energy with satisfactory return on investments within a reasonable amount of time.”
To ensure that solar energy becomes even more affordable, Hadri said First Solar had implemented a cost reduction roadmap.
The roadmap includes improving on solar module efficiency, from the current 11.7% to 14.5%, which would ultimately result in a lower production cost, from 75 US cents currently to 52 US cents per watt by 2014.
P’ng said First Solar Malaysia had engaged more than 22 suppliers and directly contributed approximately RM3.45bil to the local economy.
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