LG Electronics to convert old FPD fab into solar-cell, module production facility

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LG Electronics has finally pulled the trigger on plans to move aggressively into the solar photovoltaic manufacturing sector. At a meeting held Monday, the company’s board decided to convert its Gumi, South Korea, A1 plasma panel-manufacturing fab into crystalline-silicon solar cell and module production lines. LG said it will invest KRW 220 billion ($167 million) by 2010 to establish the two solar-focused fabrication facilities.

The company said it expects the first line to start volume production from the first quarter of 2010, with the second line beginning full operations in the first quarter of 2011. Although some observers expected the panel fab to possibly be converted into a facility for making thin-film amorphous-silicon-on-glass panels, both 120-MW capacity lines will manufacture cSi solar cells and modules, the company said.

“Leveraging LG’s cumulative R&D knowledge in various photovoltaic technologies for the last three years as well as our mass manufacturing expertise will allow us to quickly become a global player in the solar cell and module manufacturing business,” said Kwan Shik Cho, company CTO and head of the LG solar cell business team.

The company said it has also progressively accumulated R&D knowledge to further expand its business into the solar energy industry as a new growth engine. As part of this strategy, LG Electronics acquired solar cell business by means of transfer from its sister company, LG Chem Ltd., in June.

With the South Korean government setting a goal of installing 1 GW of solar power by 2012, the country has seen a series of manufacturing deals and power station announcements over the past several months. DisplayBank has forecast that the Korean market could reach $8 billion by 2013.

LG and Conergy have signed a memo of understanding to build a solar module factory, as have Quantum Fuel Systems and Asola. GT Solar recently announced a lucrative $177 million contract to supply Korean-based DC Chemical with polysilicon reactors, while earlier this year Spire said it will supply a turnkey module-manufacturing line to Dongyang.

The largest solar PV power generation plant in Asia, a 19.6-MW site in SinAn, was completed recently by Conergy, with plans to expand to 24 MW by the end of this year.

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