Taiwan LCD panel maker to set up solar plant

An AU Optronics subsidiary will produce polysilicon at the 300 megawatt factory

A subsidiary of AU Optronics, one of Taiwan's top panel makers, will open a solar factory in Taiwan late this year to save money and increase competitiveness in a growing industry.

The Taiwan-based firm's wholly owned AUO Crystal Corp. plans to begin production in the fourth quarter of the year at the three-hectare, 300-megawatt factory, company communications official Hsiao Ya-wen said on Monday.

Factory production of multicrystalline ingots and wafers, which the company calls an "upstream" source of material, will complement solar modules made by AU Optronics on the downstream side, Hsiao said.

A company statement said the subsidiary would "play a critical role in providing stable supplies of upstream solar materials to secure its proprietary R&D."

AUO Crystal's factory in central Taiwan positions AU Optronics to become more competitive as governments including Taiwan's seek to cut pollution by pushing their major energy consumers to use solar instead of conventional sources of power. Uses for solar panels range from supplying buildings with power to charging up MacBooks.

AU Optronics expects the factory to create 1,000 jobs in three years.

In-house production of upstream material will save money otherwise spent buying the same from outside vendors and give AU Optronics stronger footing in the world solar panel business, said Sebastian Ho, an analyst with Yuanta Investment Consulting in Taipei. Two other firms in Taiwan and several in mainland China have a lead today.

AU Optronics, better known for its liquid crystal display panels, won't profit right away from the factory, Ho said, but it should see returns by 2013 and make a dent in the market.

"They have a competitive advantage because their research and development isn't bad and they've got plenty of capital," Ho said.

AU Optronics reported sales revenue of US$16 billion last year.

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