Japan's Sharp Corp. said Thursday it would team up with Italian utility Enel to develop solar power plants in the Mediterranean region, seeking to cash in on growing interest in clean energy.
The two firms will launch a joint venture early next year to develop photovoltaic power plants in Italy, Sharp said.
Sharp and Enel also plan to set up a thin-film solar cell plant in Italy in cooperation with another European manufacturer.
The companies aim to halve the cost of solar power generation by 2010, said Sharp executive vice president Toshishige Hamano.
"If you look at the current market, it is clear that, by 2010, we will see insufficient supply of solar-power related products," he said.
"Enel's finances are far more solid than ours," said Hamano, noting that the company is 31-percent owned by the Italian government.
"Our plan to build the factory will not be affected by the current financial crisis," he said.
The power plants, which will be mainly in southern Italy, will use thin-film solar cells, which offer superior efficiency in hot climates, the Japanese company said.
They aim to develop the plants with a total capacity of 189 megawatts by the end of 2012.
Sharp, one of the world's largest makers of solar power panels, said the two partners hope to expand the tie-up to other Mediterranean countries.
Together with a third partner, which was not named, they plan to build a factory with an annual capacity equivalent to 480 megawatts, with the aim of starting operations around mid-2010.
Sharp did not give any financial details. The Nikkei business daily reported the power producing venture will have an estimated investment of 150 billion yen (1.6 billion dollars).
Sharp, one of the world's largest makers of solar power panels, is seeking a foothold in clean energy in Europe, where governments provide subsidies for solar power.
Japan, which has virtually no natural energy resources of its own, aims to take the lead in environmentally friendly energy.