By Michael Kanellos
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSM), the big, relentless and hugely successful semiconductor manufacturer, committed $318 million for LED and solar manufacturing facilities Wednesday.
Roughly $100 million will go into LEDs and another $218 million will go into solar. Groundbreaking on the solar facility begins later this year.
We've followed the TSMC saga for a while. Last year the company said it would move into solar and LEDs and allocated millions to a venture group to plunk money into start-ups. Soon after it began to recruit execs and meet with VC firms on Sand Hill Road.
Then it bought a 20 percent stake in Motech, which makes solar cells. This year, it put $50 million into and signed a joint venture with Stion, the maker of copper indium gallium selenide solar cells.
Like Samsung (SSNLF.PK), Panasonic (PC), Sharp and Toshiba (TOSBF.PK), TSMC is a large Asian conglomerate with a global sales team and, more importantly, extensive knowledge about logistics, factory management and supply lines, the kind of things the U.S. needs to relearn if it wants to bring greentech manufacturing back. The company is also more amenable to buying start-ups and working with them than some other Asian conglomerates--it goes with the territory when you are a factory for hire--so TSMC's push into green could ultimately work to the advantage of many U.S. companies. But make no mistake. TSMC is known for its relentless execution and speed. Traditional solar companies and LED makers will need to watch out for them.