By Ucilia Wang
The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSM) has long discussed getting into the solar business. Now its board of directors has backed up the talks with money. On Tuesday, it set aside $50 million for "possible use in solar" investments.
The appropriation came a week after TSMC's founder Morris Chang said the company was looking at acquisitions as a way to enter the solar market. TSMC also could end up starting its own solar business.
Chang, by the way, founded the TSMC in 1987 and was re-appointed the CEO in June this year after the company had suffered losses for three quarters in a row.
Folks in the chip business have viewed solar as a cousin industry because the manufacturing of chips and solar cells are similar in many ways. The solar market is growing fast while the chip industry is not.
National Semiconductor (NSM) and Applied Materials (AMAT), two giants in the chip industry, already have branched out into solar with commercial products. Jabil Circuit (JBL), a contract electronics manufacturer, has lined up a contract to make solar panels for SunPower (SPWRA).
TSMC should have lots of options in shopping for solar investments. It's headquartered in Asia, which already dominates as a manufacturing hub. The company could take advantage of its proximity to China, which is creating incentives to turn itself into a large solar energy market and help its domestic producers at the same time.