Solar panels wrap around a parking garage at Kuala Lumpur Airport in Malaysia, installed by US solar energy company SunEdison. Image: SunEdison.

California Company SunEdison Helps Asia Go Solar

ASEAN China India

Over the past year, the Californian solar energy company SunEdison (formerly MEMC Electronic Materials) has been rapidly expanding in Asia. With new partnerships and deals in the Philippines, Malaysia, India, and China, the company is building itself a strong brand across the Asia-Pacific.

In late January, SunEdison began installing 19 megawatts of solar panels at Kuala Lumpur Airport in Malaysia. This partnership with Malaysia Airport Holdings Berhad, the country’s largest airport operator, will save the airport around US$630,000 annually in energy costs. The panels will go towards achieving 5.5% solar generating capacity by 2015, a goal set by the Malaysian government.

In October, SunEdison announced that it had won the rights to build and operate solar projects totaling 150 megawatts in India. This marked the largest share awarded to a single company under the 500 megawatt tender put forward by India’s Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Limited Company. SunEdison went on to sign Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the government of the Indian state of Rajasthan to add 25 gigawatts of solar power to the 50 megawatts it had already installed there. The MOU also provided the means for SunEdison to expand its solar-powered water pump initiative in Rajasthan. Prior to the signing, it had already replaced over 1,000 inefficient pumps to aid in the supply of water to farming fields. The benefits of the MOU with Rajasthan will be felt beyond the state; due to its commitments under India’s National Solar Mission, the MOU stipulates that Rajasthan provide huge tracts of land for SunEdison to build plants capable of producing 500 megawatts that will supply renewable energy to the entire country.

Shortly after the agreement with India, SunEdison reached a joint agreement with JIC Capital in China to develop solar projects that will produce up to 1 gigawatt of power over the next three years. It is also capitalizing on the affordability of building in China and plans to build a new solar panel factory there.

Finally, in November, SunEdison entered a joint framework agreement with the Philippines’ Aboitiz Renewables. Over the next three years, the companies will jointly research, construct, and operate solar power generation projects that will produce up to 300 megawatts.

All of these projects point to the increasing awareness across Asia of the importance of acquiring renewable energy sources, as well as the strength of American firms in that sector.

UPDATE: On January 11th, 2015, SunEdison announced that it will build India's biggest solar panel factory in Guarat, India, in cooperation with India's Adani Group. The $4 billion dollar investment is predicted to create over 20,000 jobs in the area.

Sarah Batiuk is a Program Assistant at the East-West Center in Washington.