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Taiwan-based CIGS thin-film module producer TSMC Solar, a subsidiary of leading semiconductor foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp is to close its manufacturing plant at the end of August and exit the solar PV market. 

A statement by TSMC said that despite recent world-class conversion efficiencies achieved for its CIGS-based modules and expanded capacity to reached economies of scale, TSMC Solar had remained unprofitable since entering the market in 2012 and would remain so, despite any further attempts to aggressively lower production costs. 

Dr. Steve Tso, Chairman of TSMC Solar and Senior Vice President of TSMC said, “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. Upon ceasing manufacturing operations at TSMC Solar, our most important concern will be the continued employment of our workers there.”

TSMC said that it expected to provide existing customers full warranty support, while remaining modules in storage would be installed at a number of TSMC buildings and facilities.

TSMC Solar’s employees currently working at TSMC Solar’s production plant in the Central Taiwan Science Park in Taichung would be offered alternative positions within TSMC. 

TSMC announced its intentions to enter the CIGS thin-film market in 2011, with initial plans to invest a total of US$258 million to ramp its first 100MW production line using IP primarily from US-based start-up, Stion. Plans also included a further 300MW expansion and 1GW capacity milestone for 2015. The latter two plans were never achieved 

The company said that TSMC Solar’s late entry to the market and lack of economies of scale had led to a substantial cost disadvantage.

In real terms, only two thin-film manufacturers, First Solar and Solar Frontier, currently have the module efficiencies, cost and scale benefits in the sector.