Sharp is increasing production of solar panels at its factory in Japan to meet burgeoning global demand for the products, it said today.

The company, which was recently tapped to supply more than 9,000 panels to power Google's Mountain View headquarters, said it would raise annual production capacity by a fifth to reach 600 megawatts per year.

Sharp is already one of the largest manufacturers of solar panels. After the expansion the factory, in Katsuragi, will have the largest output in the world of solar panels, the Osaka-based firm said. It will spend about ¥3.5bn (about £16m) on the expansion and expects it to be completed in November this year.

The solar panels in question use photovoltaic cells, which convert sunlight into electricity. Such panels are becoming increasingly popular in consumer and industrial power systems around the world.

Sales of solar panels by Sharp totalled ¥80.8bn in the April-to-September period this year, the company said last week. For the current financial year, from April 2006, Sharp expects solar panel sales to be ¥200bn, which if achieved will be up 27 per cent on the previous financial year.