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TOKYO, June 23 (Reuters) - Sharp Corp (6753.T) and Kansai Electric Power Co (9503.T) said on Monday they have agreed to join forces in a solar power generation project that involves the construction of two power plants in Sakai, western Japan.
Soaring crude oil prices and growing concerns about climate change have boosted energy consumers' and producers' interest in renewable energy such as solar cell and wind power.
Kansai and Sharp, a solar cell maker competing with Germany's Q-Cells QCEG.DE and China's Suntech Power Holdings STP.N, plan to build a power generation facility with a maximum capacity of 18 megawatts at Sharp's manufacturing complex by March 2011.
Electricity generated by solar cells on plant rooftops will be consumed within the complex.
Kansai also plans to spend 5 billion yen ($46.6 million) to build a 10-megawatt solar power plant near the Sharp complex by March 2012, becoming the first Japanese electric utility to operate a commercial solar power generation facility that is connected to a power grid.
The size of investments required for the power generation facility at Sharp's manufacturing complex has yet to be clear.
But construction costs for the facility should be moderate since plants in the complex are designed to have solar cells on their roofs, Sharp Corporate Senior Executive Vice President Toshishige Hamano told reporters.
Sharp plans to build the Sakai manufacturing complex, which houses the world's largest liquid crystal display (LCD) panel plant and the world's biggest solar cell factory, by March 2010.
Prior to the announcement, shares in Sharp closed up 0.8 percent at 1,730 yen, outperforming the Tokyo stock market's electrical machinery index .IELEC.T, which dipped 0.1 percent.
Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka and Yumi Horie; editing by Sophie Hardach