GE eyes big Japan PV investment

First Solar's recently completed Kitakyushu-shi array in Japan

First Solar's recently completed Kitakyushu-shi array in Japan

GE Energy Financial Services is eyeing a major investment in what would become Japan’s largest-ever PV project, the company has confirmed.

The 230MW array, in Setouchi, Okayama Prefecture, is more than twice the size of any other publicly announced solar projects in Japan, a country whose topography and population density are often seen as an impediment to the development of mega-PV installations.

GE Energy Financial Services is contemplating sinking as much as ¥20bn ($194m) into the project, according to Japan’s Nikkei news service.

If it goes ahead, the project would likely be taken on line in 2018.

GE Energy Financial Services – a GE subsidiary that invests directly in energy infrastructure, often with an eye towards boosting sales of GE equipment – confirmed its involvement after the local government in Setouchi published documents related to the project.

Last summer General Electric took an equity interest in First Solar as part of a broader deal that saw the US thin-film manufacturer acquire GE’s intellectual property related to Cadmium Telluride PV technology.

First Solar and GE have since announced a follow-on partnership targeting more effective ways of designing PV plants, and First Solar recently completed its first utility-scale PV project in Japan as part of an aggressive push into that market.

In addition to its huge wind portfolio, GE Energy Financial Services has blossomed into a significant utility-scale solar investor in recent years. In December it finalised an equity investment in the EDF-developed 143MW Catalina project in California, which uses modules from First Solar and Solar Frontier.

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