Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) yesterday said it would not finalize the site for its most advanced chip factory until the first half of next year, but it was not excluding the US from consideration.
TSMC made the remarks after the Chinese-language Economic Daily News reported that the world’s biggest contract chipmaker has formally put the US on its shortlist of sites for a NT$50 billion (US$1.64 billion) fabrication plant, given a drawn-out environmental impact review and concerns about water and power supplies in Taiwan.
“We have not ruled out building a fab in the US. We are still evaluating,” TSMC spokesperson Elizabeth Sun (孫又文) said. “The final selection will be made in the first half of next year. It is too early to talk about locations right now.”
Sufficient water and electricity supplies, land and a rich talent pool are essential factors for a site, she said.
“I am not ruling it out, but I see a lot of sacrifices that we and our customers will have to make if we do that,” TSMC chairman Morris Chang (張忠謀) told investors in January when asked if TSMC would build a new fab in the US in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s “made in the US” policy.
Opening a plant in the US would mean a loss of Taiwan’s cluster effect, which has allowed the company to quickly resolve any problems, Chang said.
“Keep in mind that we earned our business in the United States, not by lowering labor costs in Taiwan. On the whole, our labor costs in Taiwan are not lower than the US. We earn our business by being good,” Chang said at the time.
Minister of Science and Technology Chen Liang-gee (陳良基) yesterday said Taiwan remained a priority for TSMC when making new investments.
TSMC has no plan to invest in a US fab, the ministry said after Chen talked to Chang on the telephone.
TSMC has applied to lease land to build a 3 nanometer (nm) or 5nm fab in Kaohsiung’s Lujhu District (路竹), the ministry said in December last year, citing the chipmaker’s investment proposal.
Under the proposal, TSMC would start building the plant and ramping up production of 3nm chips in 2022.
However, the newspaper report said that time constraints might lead the company to choose the US instead because of time-consuming environmental impact reviews, poor air quality and the risk of unstable electricity supply in Taiwan.
Minister of Economic Affairs Lee Chih-kung (李世光) said his ministry would do its best to ensure the stable supply of electricity and water for TSMC to help keep the company’s investments in Taiwan.
“The semiconductor industry is very important to Taiwan’s economy. We will definitely help TSMC,” Lee told lawmakers at a meeting of the legislature’s Economics Committee.
Based on Taiwan Power Co’s (台電) 10-year power plant construction plan, it “should not” be a problem to supply sufficient electricity for a 3nm TSMC plant, Lee said.
Additional reporting by Lauly Li