Tuesday, December 11, 2012

TSMC Gunning For First Solar In Thin-Film Solar Cells

A top foundry company that has been increasing its dominance in accepting the outsourcing of microchip production from companies around the globe is now making serious gains in advanced thin-film solar cell manufacturing as well. The Taiwanese Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) made significant investments several years ago to become a major player in the production of copper-indium-gallium- selenide (CIGS) solar cells.
Agua Caliente solar farm in Arizona

One of the primary driving forces for all thin-film solar modules is the benefit of using very-thin deposited layers of semiconductor material in order to avoid the high costs of the raw materials and energy required to produce high-purity single crystal silicon wafers that are applied towards the majority of the solar cell market.

TSMC Solar has successfully manufactured 14.2 percent efficient modules after several years of R&D in conjunction with its pilot production line at its advanced manufacturing facility located in Taiwan. These panels have entered the standard industry certification process and commercial shipments expected early in 2013. TSMC has also achieved stellar improvement in its production modules that are repeatedly achieving 13 percent module efficiency.

Since TSMC began customer shipments in April, TSMC modules have been sold to customers in leading solar markets globally including Germany, Italy, U.S., China and India. It is aiming to grasp market share from the world leader in thin-film, namely CdTe, solar cells, First Solar (FSLR), headquartered in Tempe, Arizona. FSLR has been devalued sharply as a company as its stock has dipped by near 70 percent over the last year, while it struggles with falling selling prices for its cadnium telluride (CdTe) solar modules due to highly competitive, cheaper crystalline silicon solar cell inventory being pumped into the market from China and as well as other poor business conditions.

However, it was announced this week that First Solar may win a contract to supply NextEra Energy Inc. for potentially the world’s largest solar farm. First Solar may be the only manufacturer with the capacity to supply enough CdTe solar panels for NextEra’s Blythe project in southern California, which is currently evaluating the technology. What’s more, First Solar is building the 290-megawatt Agua Caliente solar farm in Arizona for NRG. Currently, it is about 85 percent complete with approximately 250 megawatts of capacity in operation, making it the world’s biggest solar project producing electricity, according to First Solar.

Amid First Solar’s top spot in thin-film solar cells and recent successful contracts obtained globally, it faces a rising star in TSMC, which has grown over the last 10 years to be a world leader in advanced silicon microchip production. TSMC has a number of advantages over First Solar to aid any significant attempt to overtake First Solar in this regard including lower cost manufacturing, cash flow generation from its high-profit microchip production and a larger workforce from its related semiconductor technology and manufacturing division.

Source: http://www.examiner.com/article/tsmc-gunning-for-first-solar-cdte-solar-cells

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