NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- China's biggest producer of polysilicon, the most important raw material for the solar-energy industry, has plans to construct as much as 500 megawatts' worth of solar farms, an ambitious bid to extend its reach across the entire sector.

It's a lofty goal for GCL-Poly Energy Holdings, which also plans to double its raw material output to 16,500 metric tons of polysilicon this year. By comparison, the company's 500 MW solar farm would be up from a current total of a single 20 MW farm, which it finished building at the end of 2009. The 20 MW project is one of China's largest.

GCL-Poly's chief financial officer, Sam Tong, told a gathering of reporters in Hong Kong Monday that the company will be looking to finance solar farms in China, the U.S., Europe and the Middle East.

GCL's plans were given a financial boost in November, when China's sovereign wealth fund, the China Investment Corp., bought a $705 million stake in the company.

Monday's press briefing was not the first time that GCL executives have talked a big game about their solar-farm dreams. In March, company officials said the investment from the China Investment Corp. would allow for the financing of solar farms with a total capacity of as much as 500 MW.

CFO Tong didn't provide a timeline for the solar-plant build out, acccording to a report by Bloomberg Monday, but did say that 400 MW to 500 MW of solar farms was feasible, despite the company's relatively small foothold in that part of the industry.

Most major Chinese and U.S. solar-energy companies are increasingly focused on utility-scale power plants, as government subsidies for the residential market face political pressure, and the chief product of the solar industry, the solar panel, has become a commodity.

Solar-module makers like Yingli Green Energy ( YGE) and solar wafer makers such as LDK Solar ( LDK) are attempting to encroach on GCL-Poly's turf of producing polysilicon, too.

Nevertheless, many Wall Street analysts believe module makers will have a tougher time getting into the polysilicon business than Chinese polysilicon producers such as GCL and Daqo New Energy will have in entering the panel and module markets.

Still, after fears of a major oversupply in the sector surfaced, Daqo was forced in February to shelve its initial public offering. The company had planned to use funds from the equity sale to move into the solar module and systems businesses.

The oversupply concerns have been muted by the current feeding frenzy in solar, as installers attempt to get as many panels as possible onto European rooftops ahead of feed-in tariff cuts scheduled for July in Germany. Additional cuts from Germany and Italy are scheduled for the beginning of 2011.

A Chinese solar wafer and module maker, JinkoSolar ( JSK), which had also shelved an IPO earlier this year, went public last Friday. JinkoSolar priced its share on the New York Stock Exchange at the low end of its IPO range, $11 per share.

While the IPO was carried out amid heavy selling of solar stocks, analysts said the bullish demand scenario for solar made the fact that the IPO priced less than a huge surprise.

The entire sector remains under pressure from the weak euro and ongoing fears that the economic situation in Europe will exert additional pressure on governments to cut support solar subsidies. The GCL-Poly CFO specifically downplayed fears of subsidy cuts in Germany during the company's Hong Kong press briefing.

The negative impact of Europe's woes on solar shares continued unabated on Monday, with another dose of heavy selling, led by a 10% decline in shares of Chinese solar-stock favorite Trina Solar ( TSL).

Like Yingli, Trina and Suntech Power ( STP), GCL-Poly is setting up offices in the U.S.

GCL represents just one more Chinese competitor for those U.S. solar companies moving into the large-scale solar project business. First Solar ( FSLR) and SunPower ( SPWRA) have not been shy about the importance of the solar farm business to the long-term viability of their business models. In its disappointing earnings last week, SunPower specifically focused Street analysts on its transition to the large-scale solar project market.

-Reported by Eric Rosenbaum in New York.


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