Friday, June 18, 2010

TSMC Takes Stake In US Solar Energy Firm, Enters Technology Tie-Up

The Wall Street Journal

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSM), the world's largest chip contract maker by revenue, is increasing its presence in the clean energy industry by taking a stake in U.S.-based Stion Corp. and tying up with the company for the licensing, supply, and joint development of thin-film solar photovoltaic module technology.

TSMC, which has been pushing to expand into renewable energy, said its unit VentureTech Alliance Fund III will invest US$50 million for a 21% stake in Stion, according to a joint statement Wednesday.

The move is the latest example of a Taiwan technology giant expanding into the fast-growing solar-energy industry, as companies seek to both diversify from their core business and also ride the "green" energy wave.

In May, Taiwan flat-panel maker AU Optronics Corp. (AUO) and U.S.-based solar-panel maker SunPower Corp. (SPWRA) formed a joint venture to build and operate a US$1.2 billion solar-cell plant in Malaysia.

TSMC said in December that it would pay US$193 million for a 20% stake in a Taiwan solar-cell maker Motech Industries Inc. and in March said it will invest an initial NT$5.5 billion to build its first light-emitting-diode factory.

Under the agreements with Stion, Stion will license and transfer its thin-film technology to TSMC, while TSMC will provide a certain quantity of solar modules to Stion using the technology. TSMC and Stion will also work together to enhance the thin film technology through joint development, the companies said in the statement.

"Working with Stion, TSMC gains a robust thin film technology with inherent low-cost structure," Rick Tsai, TSMC's president of new businesses, said in the statement.

Stion President and Chief Executive Chet Farris said the collaboration with TSMC will enable Stion to increase its operations and achieve market leadership, without giving further details.

Stion was founded in 2006 and is backed by venture capital investors, including Khosla Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, General Catalyst Partners, and Braemar Energy Ventures, according to the statement.