THE Government chose an Oldbury solar panel factory to launch the first solar strategy of any EU country.

Sunsolar, Houghton Street, was given £5 million Government grant to build a £10 million factory to build solar panels last year creating over 500 jobs by 2018.

Solar Trade Association executives joined Minister for Energy and Climate Change, Greg Barker, at the announcement on Friday.

Rob Grant, Sunsolar’s business manager, confirmed 44 jobs will be created this year and by 2018 the workforce will increase to 565.

He said: “We know there is a real buzz about the prospects renewable energy solutions have to offer this country.

“We are all very aware of the effect the credit crunch has had on the economy, as well as the great need for renewable energy sources across the world.

“To be able to create a factory environment that will not only employ local suppliers to work with, but create new jobs and offer viable and inexpensive energy sources to the UK, is something we’re extremely excited about.”

He added: “We hope the introduction of much needed jobs, use of local, UK based suppliers and the running of a self sufficient factory will put the Oldbury on the map for a significant improvement within the industry in the next 12 months.”

Minister for Energy and Climate Change, Greg Barker, said: “We have managed to put ourselves among the world leaders on solar and this strategy will help us stay there.

“There is massive potential to turn our large buildings into power stations – just as the Midlands have done - and we must seize the opportunity this offers to boost our economy.

“Solar not only benefits the environment, it has the potential to create thousands of jobs across the region and deliver the clean and reliable energy supplies that the country needs at the lowest possible cost to consumers.”

STA chief executive Paul Barwell said: “Solar has not only been recognised by DECC as a key UK technology, but now has its own dedicated strategy – the first in Europe.

"Minister Greg Barker has championed solar power specifically because he knows it has the greatest potential to empower millions of people across the UK with low-cost green energy. Solar will also provide thousands of good quality local jobs."

He added: “It’s a clever move by the UK Government to start strategising to maximise its stake in a global market estimated at $134 billion by 2020."