Japan-based Tokuyama Corp will invest RM1.5 billion or US$500 million in its second polycrystalline silicon manufacturing base at the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE).

“The company plans to start operations with an annual production capacity of about 3,000 tons in 2012,” said president Shigeaki Nakahara at a joint media announcement with the International Trade and Industry Ministry here Thursday.

Also present were minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam and Malaysian Industrial Development Authority (MIDA) director-general Datuk Jalilah Baba.

The manufacturing base is located at the Samalaju Industrial Park and the company plans to hire about 300 local employees.

Nakahara said in its medium-term management plan beginning 2008, Tokuyama has classified polycrystalline silicon as a material for strategic growth.

He said the company was actively strengthening this business, planning to increase the annual production capacity of its factory in Yamaguchi, Japan, from the current 5,200 tons to 8,200 tons in the spring of 2009.

“Demand for polycrystalline silicon is expanding rapidly with its application in solar cells an so on and Tokuyama is receiving many orders from customers,” he added.

At present, the Tokuyama factory in Japan is the companys only manufacturing base for polycrystalline silicon, Nakahara said.

“Thus, the construction of a second manufacturing base is urgent from the viewpoint of the dispersion of risk as well,” he said.

In April this year, the company launched a project to select a site for its second manufacturing base. Sites in Japan and overseas were studied before the company decided on a 200-hectare site at the Samalaju Industrial Park, located 50 kilometres northeast of Bintulu.

Nakahara said Tokuyama would start drafting the basic design for the manufacturing base and this is scheduled to be completed by the middle of next year.

The manufacturing of polycrystalline silicon is electricity-intensive and requires industrial water, labour and other resources, he said, adding that such resources are available at Samalaju.

According to him, Samalaju was also chosen because of advantages like preferential tax treatment and support in getting federal and state government permits and licences.

Meanwhile, Dr Chan said SCORE had so far received 18 major enquires with estimated investments of about RM65.4 billion.

“The investments involve mainly energy-intensive activities,” he said.