More investment is flowing into Malaysia’s technology hardware sector, with a new plant announced by hard drive manufacturer Western Digital and a joint venture between AU Optronics (Taiwan) and SunPower (USA) to produce solar panels.

Western Digital, who already operate four plants across Malaysia, has promised to invest a further $US1.2 billion over the next five years. Its new research and development (R&D) and manufacturing facility in Penang is scheduled to open in Q3 2011. Meanwhile, AU Optronics will take a 50% share in a $700 million solar panel manufacturing operation expeced to start mass production in Q4 2010 (exact location not announced).

AUO’s partner, SunPower, is the largest commercial and residential manufacturer of solar panels in the USA, and the Taiwanese government estimates the industry will be worth $6.25 billion by 2020.

Both projects offer great benefits to Malaysia’s economy not only by increasing employment, but also by raising skills further in areas like R&D, high tech manufacturing and electronics engineering.