Business Times, January 27, 2010
By Rupa Damodaran
MALAYSIA is keen to develop "solar valleys" to enable small- and medium-sized businesses and other vendors to support the solar energy industry, said International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed.
The country has so far attracted RM10 billion in investments in the the fast growing photovoltaic (PV) or solar energy industry, from big players the likes of First Solar and Sunpower from the US and Q-Cells from Germany.
"They (investments) are in line with the government's policies to encourage green technology and the use of more renewable energy," he told a media briefing after a visit to Q-Cells Malaysia Sdn Bhd's fabrication plant in Cyberjaya, Selangor yesterday.
"With the valleys, there will be spin-offs for supporting industries and create clusters. The companies can also source some of the raw materials locally such as silica and glass."
Mustapa said he was impressed with the progress of Q-Cells, one of the world's biggest makers of solar cells, since it invested in Selangor Science Park 2 two years ago.
Considered as the first tenant in the "green field" of the industrial park, the German company produced its first solar cell within 10 months of investments.
So far it has invested RM1.5 billion in the plant and has expressed plans to invest more than RM5 billion in Malaysia to cope with the increasing demand in the next few years.
It is currently having discussions with the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority (MIDA).
Q-Cells was the result of approval process by the high impact committee under the Cabinet where "customised incentives" are extended to significant investments, said Mustapa.
The output from its first two production lines total 165,000 cells daily and it caters to the export market with a sizeable number to Germany.
There are 560 employees and there are plans to ramp up production by the end of the year, providing jobs to 1,000 people.
First Solar, which is located in Kulim, has invested RM2.5 billion, with another RM1.1 billion expansion plan that will provide employment opportunities for 2,400 people.
Sunpower in Malacca, which is is still under construction, has invested RM2.2 billion.
Q-Cells Malaysia chief executive officer Bernhard Rack said a solar hub or valley will augur well for Malaysia and the solar energy market.
A good example for Malaysia to look at is the growth of Germany's solar industry, which has created more than the 800,000 jobs offered by the automotive industry.
There are about 1.2 million jobs in the renewable energy industry in Germany and the number is expected to double in the next 10 years.