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Kyocera to begin manufacturing solar panels in region

Kyocera Solar plans to soon begin manufacturing solar panels in San Diego.

The company will assemble solar panels for an average of 10,000 U.S. homes per year, using solar cells manufactured in Japan. Kyocera plans to begin production at its Kearny Mesa plant in June.

The new plant will increase Kyocera’s manufacturing capacity to 1 gigawatt per year and allow Kyocera better access to the United States and California solar markets, said Rodney Lanthorne, president of Kyocera International Inc.

“We selected this market to meet the U.S.’ growing demand for solar energy products led by California,” Lanthorne said.

San Diego is arguably the best market for solar, said Mayor Jerry Sanders, who was present for the announcement.

“San Diego has the most rooftop installations and we produce more solar power than any other city,” Sanders said.

Kyocera operates assembly plants in nearby Tijuana, however the San Diego plant will allow the company to become even more local, said Steve Hill, president of Kyocera Solar Inc.

“Kyocera chose San Diego to be the largest market on the North American continent,” Hill said.

Despite higher labor costs in the United States, Kyocera will reduce transportation costs and emissions, said Irene Stillings, executive director of the California Center for Sustainable Energy.

“Kyocera is reducing its carbon footprint,” Stillings said.

The manufacturing operation in San Diego will create an estimated 75 jobs, Hill said.

However, more jobs will be created indirectly. Solar installers and others members of the industry will be needed to support Kyocera’s operations, Stillings said.

The clean technology sector will be the key to economic recovery for California, said Victoria Bradshaw, secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency. Employment in the sector has grown at a constant, rapid rate, even during the recession.

“The clean tech sector means jobs,” Bradshaw said.

As a result of AB 32 California is positioned to become the world leader in terms of adoption of solar technology.

“There is great momentum here in San Diego and around California for clean and renewable technologies,” Stillings said.

San Diego Gas & Electric is also hoping to double the amount of solar generation capacity in San Diego in the next year, which will provide opportunities for Kyocera, said Jim Avery, senior vice president of Power Supply for SDG&E.

Though Kyocera is establishing its first U.S. manufacturing operation, the company does not plan to apply for manufacturing tax credits available through the U.S. Department of Energy, Hill said.

“We see that as secondary to bringing quality products to the market,” Hill said.

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