LG has talked about becoming a solar powerhouse for years. Today the company declared that it is serious.
The South Korean manufacturing giant said it would enter the market for rooftop, commercial and residential solar in North America with a goal of becoming a $2.4 billion solar company globally by 2015. LG will invest $820 million in research and manufacturing over the next five years.
Call it a rematch of Star Wars. Rival Samsung has already declared that it wants to become the largest solar manufacturer in the world by 2015 and whatever Samsung does, LG will follow. Samsung has already announced it will invest billions into solar and wind farms, as well as manufacturing facilities in Ontario. (The Star Wars reference comes from the fact that LG stands for Lucky Goldstar and Samsung's symbol is a group of stars.)
While the companies are rivals, they both come to the market with a distinct advantage. Technologies for solar manufacturing overlap with many of the technologies used to produce LCD TVs, and the two companies are worldwide leaders in TVs. Thus, both come to market with expertise, deeply knowledgeable research labs, lots of factory capacity, and in some cases, old equipment they can deploy for solar lines. Meanwhile, Hyundai Heavy Industries announced that it would build a 400-megawatt CIGS factory, according to reporter Ucilia Wang.
LG started producing solar panels for the Korean market at the beginning of the year. Overall, LG will invest $18 billion into green products by 2020, particularly energy-efficient appliances and electrical components.
In other solar news:
--General Electric unveiled the first two cadmium telluride solar panels it has developed in conjunction with PrimeStar Solar. GE reiterated that it will bring these panels out in 2011. First Solar has had the cadmium telluride market to itself for some time. First Solar can make modules for around 76 cents a watt and has hit efficiencies of around 11 percent. GE has said its panels will be world class, so the efficiency numbers will be interesting to see.
GE also announced that it will work with Solar Frontier, the former Showa Shell. Solar Frontier is a copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar module manufacturer, a market that to date GE has not participated in. GE will work with the company on its factory. We will get more details soon. It's a big deal, analyst Eric Wesoff tells me.
--SunWize has announced it has landed a deal to design and build a 3-megawatt solar array for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Phoenix.