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AU Optronics, SunPower set plans for solar cell plant venture

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AU Optronics and SunPower will launch a joint venture to build a solar cell manufacturing plant in Malaysia.

AU Optronics and SunPower said Thursday that they will launch a joint venture to build a solar cell manufacturing plant in Malaysia.

The idea is to ramp up supply of solar cells. AU Optronics is best known for manufacturing LCD screens, but it recently bought a majority stake of M.Setek, a Japanese supplier of polysilicon and wafers. SunPower will contribute process improvements, production and management.

According to the companies, the two companies' joint venture should be able to ramp supply. Each party will contribute $350 million to the venture over several installments for a $700 million total investment.

For SunPower, the AU Optronics deal will lower costs. The joint venture will own and operate SunPower's 1.4 gigawatt third solar cell fabrication facility, known as Fab 3, which is under construction. SunPower said the joint venture will cut its Fab 3 capital expense by more than 35 percent per watt.

SunPower's solar cells have a minimum rated efficiency of 22 percent, the highest commercially available grade.

In other news from SunPower:

  • The company completed financing to expand Italy's largest solar power plant.
  • SunPower completed a plant for Duke Energy.

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Larry Dignan

Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan is editor-in-chief of SmartPlanet and ZDNet. He is also editorial director of TechRepublic. Previously, he was an editor at eWeek, Baseline and CNET News. He has written for WallStreetWeek.com, Inter@ctive Week, New York Times and Financial Planning. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Delaware. He is based in New York but resides in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure