TSMC pulls plug on solar business

August 27, 2015 // By Peter Clarke
TSMC's six-year flirtation with solar and LED manufacturing as diversifying alternatives to IC foundry work is coming to an end.

Leading IC foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (Hsinchu, Taiwan) has announced that its 100 percent subsidiary TSMC Solar will cease manufacturing operations at the end of August 2015. TSMC said it believes its solar business is no longer viable.

The company said it would honor all product warranties and offer jobs to all the employees working at TSMC Solar in Taiwan. TSMC Solar's wafer fab is at Central Taiwan Science Park in Taichung.

TSMC said that depite the world-class conversion efficiency of Tower Solar's CIGS (copper indium gallium selenide) cells the company's late entry into the market and a lack of economies of scale led to a substantial cost disadvantage. The remaining solar panel inventory will be installed at TSMC buildings and facilities.

"TSMC continues to believe that solar power is an important source of green energy and that solar module manufacturing remains a robust and growing industry, but despite six years of hard work we have not found a way to make a sustainable profit," said Steve Tso, chairman of TSMC Solar and senior vice president of TSMC, in a statement.

TSMC made its move into LED and solar markets during the depression in 2009 when its main IC foundry business suffered a collapse and the company was looking to diversify its risk.

In January 2015 TSMC announced its decision to sell its LED-making subsidiary TSMC Solid State Lighting, to Epistar Corp. (Hsinchu, Taiwan) for about NT$825 million (about $25.8 million).

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