A Chinese company has entered into a Sh9 billion partnership with a Kenyan firm to build the first solar panel factory in East Africa. The move is expected to reposition solar as a key source of energy in Kenya by making it more affordable to millions of consumers who depend on the national electricity grid for their energy needs. It is estimated that the Beijing Tianpu Xianxing Enterprises and Electrogen Technologies venture could see the prices of solar panels drop by up to 65 per cent. The project will be implemented through Pan African Technologies, a jointly owned company in which Beijing Tianpu has a 70 per cent interest and will raise $100 million (Sh7 billion) from internal resources. Its local partner is expected take up the remaining fraction of the financing plan in cash and kind, including $40 million (Sh2.8 billion) in cash and three acres of land along Nairobi's Mombasa Road where the factory is to be erected by a local company of Chinese origin. Construction of the facility is set to start in October for completion in March 2008. Once built, the factory will source the materials required locally and employ a minimum of 100 Chinese trained staff.
In the Czech Republic, a 2005 renewable energy law modeled after Germany's has spurred on the Czech solar industry. Last year, the country as a whole generated only 540 MWh of solar energy. Korowatt’s solar plant, which began operating in January, is expected to outdo this total on its own, with 628 MWh expected this year. Another Czech-based company, HiTecSolar, announced completion of its own “largest solar power station in Central Europe,” located in east Moravia.
Japan, already amongst the world's leaders in solar cell production and where solar adoption exist without subsidies, may need to increase reliance on solar, particularly thin-film solar, to fight its pollution woes.
In the mean time, despite turbulence in the stock markets, publicly listed solar names do not seem to be experiencing a slowdown, but are instead ramping up with expansions plans. SunPower (Nasdaq: SPWR) inked up new ingot, wafer and polysilicon deals; LDK Solar secured a three year wafer supply agreement; and China-based Canadian Solar (Nasdaq: CSIQ) set up its new U.S. head office in Phoenix, Arizona.