San Diego, California [RenewableEnergyAccess.com] Kyocera Corporation announced plans to expand its annual solar module manufacturing capacity to 500 megawatts (MW) by the end of March 2011. The company has secured supply contracts with silicon producers to ensure the steady increase in production capacity, which will be more than double its current annual capacity of 240 MW.The new raw material contracts will allow the company to expand capacity throughout its quadripartite global manufacturing network for solar modules, which includes plants in Japan, Mexico, the Czech Republic and China. Kyocera will invest an estimated 30 billion yen (about $250 million) in plants and equipment throughout this network during the course of the expansion effort. “For the last two years, as we endured a shortage of solar-grade silicon, Kyocera has focused on improving solar-cell quality and energy conversion efficiency,” said Tatsumi Maeda, senior managing executive officer of Kyocera Corp. and general manager of the company’s Corporate Solar Energy Group. — Kyocera Mexicana, S.A. de C.V., which produces finished solar photovoltaic modules for the Americas and Australia, will increase capacity from its present 35 MW to 150 MW. — Kyocera Solar Europe s.r.o., which produces solar modules for the European market, will increase capacity to 150 MW. — Kyocera (Tianjin) Solar Energy Co., Ltd., which serves the Chinese market, will increase its manufacturing capacity to 90 MW. — Kyocera Corporation, Ise Plant, which produces solar modules and systems for the Japanese market, will expand capacity to 110 MW with an investment of approximately 1 billion yen (about $8.3 million). In addition, Kyocera Corporation, Yohkaichi Plant, which produces all of the raw solar cells used by the other four production sites for their local assembly into finished solar modules, will increase its capacity to 500 MW. “The U.S. is experiencing phenomenal public interest in, and acceptance of, solar electricity,” said Steve Hill, president of Kyocera Solar, Inc. “The majority of Americans want clean energy developed into an affordable, mainstream resource.” Kyocera currently holds the world record for energy conversion efficiency in 15x15cm polycrystalline silicon solar cells, at 18.5%. The combined output of all Kyocera solar energy manufacturing from 1975 to 2006 totaled approximately 760 MW of solar modules.