Solar maker First Solar Inc. and EDF Energies Nouvelles - half owned by France's state owned utility - will venture to build what the companies call the largest solar panel manufacturing plant in France, representing an expected investment of 90 million euros ($128 million), they said in a statement Thursday.

The plant is expected to fully begin production in the second half of 2011 and have an initial annual capacity of solar panels able to generate more than 100 megawatts of power. By then it plans to employ more than 300 people, according to the statement.

The manufacturing site will also include France's first facility for recycling solar panels, First Solar said in a statement.

I salute the decision of EDF Energies Nouvelles and First Solar to invest and create jobs in France's solar sector, which has begun to take off since the Grenelle de l'Environnement, French Sustainable Development Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said in a statement Thursday.

Countries that create market frameworks that enable solar and other renewable energies to achieve commercial scale will reap the greatest benefits in private sector investment, technological innovation and job creation, said Mike Ahearn, Chief Executive Officer of First Solar.

Under the agreement First Solar will build and operate the plant in France at a location to be determined and EDF will finance half of the capital expense and plant start-up costs and will benefit from the plant's entire output for the first 10 years, the companies said.

The venture follows France's Grenelle of the Environment, implemented by President Nicolas Sarkozy which includes policies to promote renewable energy sources and allow solar to compete with other forms of electricity. It provides incentives for instance, to place solar panels on the rooftops of retail, commercial and agricultural buildings.