Solar

Report: Taiwan firms offset IC softness with solar spark

A slumping semiconductor market (including final manufacturing) and still-hot solar technology is causing a number of Taiwan firms in the IC chain to offset their main business with solar cell work, reports the Taiwan Economic News.

A slumping semiconductor market (including final manufacturing) and still-hot solar technology is causing a number of Taiwan firms in the IC chain to offset their main business with solar cell work, reports the Taiwan Economic News.

Unitech Printed Circuit Board Co., which primarily makes PCBs for mobile phones, has begun mass production of solar cells at its plant in the Letzer Industrial Park in Taiwan’s northeastern Yilan country, with current annual production estimated at 8-10MW (vs. maximum capacity of 30MW), generating sales of around US $20M-$26M and likely breakeven profitability, the paper reports. Yield rates are at 94% with energy conversion efficiency of 16.5%, according to company chairman Chang Ping-chao, with goals to increase those marks by year’s end to 97% and 17%, respectively. Long-term silicon supply contracts have been signed with Green Energy Technology and an unnamed Korean company, the paper noted. A second production line is set to ramp in 3Q09 and a third in 2011, to push solar cell annual production capacity to 500MW.

Taiwanese IC retailers involved in solar business
Company Product lines Business scope
Galaxy ICs for solar applications, ICs for electronics paper Exclusive dealer of Inergy’s solar applications chips and IXYS’ driver ICs
WPG Solar energy Dealer of Kikuchi’s solar wafers
Wah Lee Solar energy, LED Dealer of package materials for solar equipment and sapphire LED
Topco Solar applications Dealer of solar wafer, solar cell module and solar systems
     
Source: information provided by the companies.

Meanwhile, Taiflex Scientific Co., a supplier of flexible copper clad laminated boards, is TUV certified and has started delivery of solar cell modules this year, using existing PCB production lines at a plant in China. The lines are expected to have maximum capacity of 200K sq. m. of solar cell modules in 2008 and increasing to 300K sq. m in the next two years — but for the moment, the paper reports, the lines are only trickling out 2 sq.m/month due to lack of raw materials. Sales of $1.7M are about 5% of the company’s total, but with a goal of 8-10% by year’s end.

Other Taiwanese firms in the IC supply chain are getting into the solar business too, the paper points out. Galaxy Far East Corp., which is owned by Motech Industries, has agreed to exclusively sell solar chips by Inergy Tech, said to boost solar power systems’ generation efficiency by more than 20%. WP Holdings recently agreed to source silicon wafers from Japan’s Kijuchi, adding an estimated $3.3M/month in revenue. Topco Scientific also has added silicon crystalline wafers and solar modules to its product lines in addition to wafers for chips, helping boost overall revenue by 30% this year to $203M and profits to $11M. Wah Lee Industrial now is the exclusive domestic dealer of backsheets for US firm Madico and for Mitsui Chemical’s solar EVA packaging materials, seeing sales increase >26% (to $357M) this year and boost ROE beyond 20%.

Originally published by Solid State Technology.