Mon Jan 7, 2013 7:57am EST

France doubled the production capacity target and offered more financial support to small photovoltaic farms, which use European-made panels, in a bid to rescue the country's ailing solar sector.

Energy Minister Delphine Batho announced the measures, which are expected to spur investments worth over 2 billion euros ($2.6 billion), during a visit to a solar panel factory in Western France.

The Socialist government is seeking to rescue an industry which has lost about 15,000 jobs in the last two years, after the previous conservative government tried to dampen a speculative bubble in solar power installations. In 2012, the sector employed 18,000 people, down from 32,500 in 2010.

The production capacity target will double to 1,000 megawatts (MW) per year, or the equivalent capacity of a small nuclear power reactor, Batho said.

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