Taiwan Sun Power Shines through Gloomy Economic Forecasts

By Phillip Charlier

Taiwan has long been known for making silicon wafers for computer memory chips. Now Green Energy Company (TPE: 3519) is investing in a joint venture with Chinese manufacturers to produce polycrystalline silicon wafers for solar panels.

Construction has begun on the manufacturing facility in China and it is expected to be operational in the second half of 2009. The existing plant in Taiwan is being expanded to slice the silicon ingots into wafers.

Demand has increased with new contracts to supply Spain and Germany starting in 2009. Green Energy and five other solar cell makers exported $1.1 billion of their product in the first half of 2008, representing a 70% increase over the same period in 2007.

Taiwan’s six largest solar cell manufacturers are Motech Industrial, Gintech Energy, E-Ton Solar Tech, Sino-American Silicon Products, Sinonar and Green Energy Technology.

Gintech is also expanding production capacity. In October, Gintech signed a 10-year, $3 billion to $4 billion deal to supply cells to St. Peters, Mo.-based MEMC Electronic Materials (NYSE:WFR).

Motech Industrial subsidiary Motech Solar has contracted to supply 11 megawatts of six-inch multi-crystalline photovoltaic cells in 2008 to Roseville, Calif.-based Solar Power Inc.

Applied Materials is investing $17 million to expand its equipment-manufacturing center in Taiwan, and Taiwan Glass Industrial has said it plans to invest $11.9 million to start production of glass for solar cells.

And Sino-American Silicon Products recently invested €30 million ($43 million) in Italy’s Silfab, a solar-grade polysilicon startup (see Windy dealmaking leads the week).

Taiwan Premier Liu Chao-shiuan has Taiwan’s solar industry production may reach NT$500 billion by 2012.

Despite the gloomy global financial outlook, the solar power industry continues to benefit from high oil prices and government subsidies and incentive schemes in Spain and the US. Other countries including Japan, China and India are expected to also introduce incentives for renewable energy production.

Taiwan-based solar cell maker DelSolar held a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of its new factory in northern Taiwan on October 8. Production capacity at the factory is planned to gradually increase to 720MWp in 2012, bringing DelSolar’s total capacity to 840MWp, seven times the company’s existing level of 120MWp, according to the company.

Neo Solar Power Corp plans to expand its manufacturing capacity to 700,000kw a year by the end of 2010. The company has the capacity to turn out 90,000kw of solar cells annually at its No. 1 plant in the northern county of Hsinchu, which was placed into service this spring. It began building a second plant in the city of Hsinchu in August and will gradually bring production there onstream, with the facility’s capacity slated to reach 120,000kw next month.

Sources: Cleantech Group; Digitimes; Business in Asia Today. Picture: AFP