Solar

Taiwan’s AUO: PV plans a go despite gov’t park ruling

Taiwan’s National Science Council has upheld a court decision to suspend new development at the Central Taiwan Science Park due to possible environmental impacts, but apparently that won’t deter AU Optronics from building up its PV presence. Updated August 30, 2010.

August 4, 2010 – Taiwan’s National Science Council (NSC) has upheld a court decision to suspend new development at the Central Taiwan Science Park (CTSP) due to possible environmental impacts, but apparently that won’t deter resident AU Optronics from building up its PV presence.

Water spray test conducted in AUO’s Solar Reliability Lab. (Source: AU Optronics)

AU had proposed to spend NT$400B (US ~$12.5B) to build two new flat-panel display plants as well as two PV module plants totaling 2GWp annual capacity. (The company had pledged back in January to invest $300M-$400M in its PV business operations this year, mainly to expand poly-Si capacity at its M.Stetek subsidiary.) The application to the park in Taichung reportedly sought 200 hectares of land for both the FPD and solar cell/module operations, requesting a quarter of that in the current year to start construction in 2011.

But the NSC now says it will honor the Taiwan High Court’s ruling supporting residents’ concerns that no reliable environmental impact study was presented. AU reiterated its concern that such a ruling would dissuade companies from investing in the park — and possibly convince them to look elsewhere, e.g. mainland China. Taiwan’s opposition party, the Democratic Progressive Party, has gone so far as to call for the resignation of Taiwan’s environmental head over the lack of environmental due-diligence at the CTSP. The government reportedly will appeal the Court’s decision as it seeks to assuage potential investors.

Nevertheless, AUO may have to rethink its PV plans. Digitimes reports that with the rejection by NSC and the Court, the company may outright cancel its proposed bifacial interdigitated back-contact solar cell project with Sunpower — a move that would have vaulted AUO among the island’s top PV players.

Update 8/30/20: AUO Chairman K.Y. Lee said the National Science Council (NSC) is planning to adjust its plan for the development of the fourth phase of the science park by proposing a land swap with the farmers who had their land taken from them by the government.

Read the full update in “TAIWAN’S AUO HOPES TO RESOLVE SCIENCE PARK DISPUTE VIA LAND SWAP”

AUO still apparently prefers its proposed site in the CTSP, instead of changing locations. The NSC has suggested the Southern Taiwan Science Park (STSP), for example, but AUO thinks there isn’t enough land at STSP for its planned facilities.

It’s not all bad news, though. AUO’s PV QRA lab in Taichung has received four UL certification marks for professional testing, so the site can perform nearly three dozen reliability tests such as product function and durability under extreme weather conditions, as well as address transportation of large-sized solar products. AU spent roughly $3M to set up the lab — which, unfortunately, has far less cachet than a 2GWp cell/module project.