AU Optronics Corp (友達光電), the nation’s No. 2 LCD panel maker, is gearing up its expansion into the solar power business as it plans to commercially operate rooftop solar systems, a company executive said yesterday.
Operating solar farms will be the next step for AU Optronics as it seeks to gain a solid position in the supply chain of the fast-growing solar market, company chairman Lee Kun-yao (李焜耀) told reporters yesterday.
AU Optronics is diversifying into the fast-growing solar market via mergers and acquisitions, Lee said, and it will jointly operate a solar cell module factory with US solar cell company SunPower Corp in Malaysia. It also holds shares in Japan’s solar wafer supplier M. Setek Co.
AU Optronics has helped customers install solar panels and systems with partners in Germany, Italy and Spain, Lee said.
In Taiwan, AU Optronics installed solar panels on the rooftop of a 7.5-generation LCD factory in Taichung and plans to sell the power generated there to the state-run Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電) via a grid connection, he said.
The rooftop solar system will generate 10 megawatts of power a year, making it the biggest rooftop solar farm in Taiwan by capacity, the company said.
Earlier this year, the government approved a green energy subsidy program to encourage clean energy, including solar and wind power, and to reduce reliance on conventional power sources. Solar farm operators or households can sell solar power to Taipower at different rates, the Bureau of Energy said.
Next year, Lee said AU Optronics plans to allocate 15 percent to 20 percent of its capital spending on expanding its solar business.
The company is planning total capital expenditures of NT$100 billion (US$3.17 billion) for this year and has said it plans to spend between 10 percent and 15 percent of that amount on its green energy business.
The LCD panel maker is not the only company in Taiwan setting its eye on green energy as awareness of environmental protection grows.
Electronics component maker Lite-On Technologies Inc (光寶科技) and contract chipmaker United Microelectronics Corp (聯電) are expanding into the solar market by setting up solar and LED subsidiaries.
Lite-On is apparently making faster progress than its local rivals, as it has helped install solar panels on the rooftops of a warehouse in Europe for furniture retailer IKEA and on the rooftops of greenhouses owned by farmers in China. This year, it expects to install 50-megawatt solar systems for customers.