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Japanese oil giant Showa Shell Sekiyu which owns a network of 4,575 gas stations across Japan, - according to AFP reports, plans to build one of the world’s largest solar panel plants with an investment of at least 100 billion yen (948 million dollars), a spokesman said Wednesday.

Showa Shell Sekiyu, 40%-owned by Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS.A), is one of Japan’s leading oil refiners. The company plans to begin construction in 2011, said the company spokesman. The location has not yet been decided but the Tokyo-based refiner is studying sites in Japan, Europe or the Middle East.

The new plant would have an annual capacity of 1,000 megawatts, equivalent to that of a regular-sized nuclear power reactor, and outdistancing Sharp’s domestic plant which has an estimated 710 megawatts a year. The company will choose the location based on factors such as the local labour, procurement and demand conditions.

Showa Shell will team up with Ulvac, a maker of vacuum devices based in Kanagawa prefecture near Tokyo, to develop the cheaper technology while the factory will produce solar cells using metallic compounds to avoid the higher cost of silicon used in standard cells.

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has set a target to raise the use of solar cells 10-fold from present levels by 2020, with the government considering subsidies and tax breaks for households turning to solar power.

Source: Japan’s Shell Affiliate To Build Y100 Billion Solar Panel Plant