Taiwan’s young solar power industry is gearing up for expansion, but it should become self-sufficient in procurement if it wants to increase its global competitiveness, industry experts said at an exhibition yesterday.
Tsai Hsin-yuan (蔡新源), CEO of the Industrial Technology Research Institute’s (ITRI, 工業技術研究院) southern branch, said that Taiwan’s high-tech sectors previously sought production capacity expansion before self-sufficiency in equipment procurement, which was often the case in the semiconductor and flat-panel display sectors.
“However, for the solar power sector, if we aim to achieve higher international competitiveness, we have to reverse this mindset and put equipment self-sufficiency before capacity expansion,” Tsai said.
According to ITRI, Taiwan’s solar power industry generated an output value of NT$53.5 billion (US$1.74 billion) last year. The total value is expected to rise to NT$90 billion this year before hitting NT$400 billion in 2015.
Tsai was speaking at the first Solar Optoelectronic Equipment Forum & Exposition, which was held in Tainan County yesterday.
About 400 representatives of Taiwan’s solar power industry participated in the exhibition, an organizer said.
Organized by the ITRI, the Taiwan Photovoltaic Industry Association and the Taiwan Optoelectronic and Semiconductors Equipment Association, the meeting focused on future trends in the industry while reviewing current achievements in research and development.
One trend is self-sufficiency in manufacturing equipment procurement — buying equipment from domestic companies instead of foreign sources.
Huang Ying-chien (黃英堅), a section chief at the economic affairs ministry’s Industrial Development Bureau, told the forum that only a small part of the equipment used by the local photovoltaic industry is domestically produced.
However, the bureau hoped to raise that ratio to 80 percent by 2013, Huang said.
“This goal may look difficult to achieve at present, but it will become reachable if industry-academia cooperation can be strengthened,” Huang said.
Meanwhile, R&D in advanced, efficient equipment is also essential, according to industry experts.
Lan Chung-wen (藍崇文), director-general of ITRI’s Photovoltaics Technology Center, said that the institute was working on refining the manufacturing process of silicon thin film and print CIGS (copper indium gallium selenide) solar cells.
“The production output capacity of mainstay silicon crystal-based cells relies heavily on sufficient raw material supply, which has become increasingly strained in recent years,” Lan said. “Thin film and print CIGS, however, rely more on advanced equipment and technology.”
“So far, no country in the world has successfully applied these two sets of production techniques to mass production, which means that if Taiwan can take the lead in these areas, we may gain a valuable edge over international competitors,” Lan said.