LONDON – TSMC Solar Europe has been formed in Hamburg, Germany, and could have a manufacturing role, depending on how TSMC's energy-related business plans evolve.
The European subsidiary has been provided with a budget of 9.4 million euros (about $13 million). It's still early days for the company, which employs three people, according to Maria Marced, president of TSMC Europe BV. "There will be no real business until 2012," she said, adding that staffing would be ramped to 10 people.
"We're in the development phase," she said emphasizing that TSMC energy businesses in solar and LED would emphasize the economies of scale at major facilities in Taiwan just as TSMC does in the IC foundry business.
However, that does not mean that manufacturing would not be done in Europe. "It will depend on the business model. If TSMC goes for finished goods, there is room for solar module manufacture locally," said Marced. "In Europe there is a big focus on solar and LEDs for lighting."
TSMC already has extensive collaboration with the IMEC research institute which has programs on a variety of photovoltaic technologies. "Is there room for European innovation [to impact TSMC]? Maybe, it's too early to say," concluded Marced.
TSMC certainly has the clout to do either solar cell related products or LED or both.
The solar business is still very capital intensive and may take longer to turn a profit as compared to LED lighting products. LED lighting is beginning to take off in a big way, and many channels exist for selling the chips to make them.
I would bet on LED lighting first.
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