Samsung announces increased solar focus

10. June 2011 | Industry & Suppliers, Intersolar Europe 2011, Research & Development, Top News, Storage & smart grids | By:  Becky Stuart/Valerie Thompson

Samsung has said that it plans to invest USD$5.5 billion in the development of solar technology and production by 2020.

Samsung solar photovoltaic modules with "Samsung takes on the solar challenge" slogan

Samsung is looking to heavily invest in the solar industry. Image: Samsung.

In a press conference at Intersolar, the electronics giant announced that, in order to "unify [its] energy business and create synergies", it will transfer its solar business from Samsung Electronics to Samsung SDI on July 1.

A spokesperson for the company additionally tells pv magazine that while a detailed investment plan hasn’t yet been finalized, Samsung will direct most of the funds towards ramping up its production capacity.

The company currently produces 130 megawatts (MW) of monocrystalline and thin film photovoltaic modules; a breakdown of which was not provided. The spokesperson says that Samsung plans to increase this to 300 MW by 2012, one gigawatt (GW) by 2013, three GW by 2015 and, finally, ten GW by 2020.

While the spokesperson could not divulge any concrete details over whether Samsung will be opening up new production facilities to accommodate the capacity expansion, they did say: "It's under consideration. Samsung is analyzing many important factors and considering several options."

They also said that the company will hire "hundreds of new employees" this year, mostly for its R&D division.

At the press conference, Samsung added that its modules have been on the market since the second half of last year, and have an efficiency of 18.5 percent. By the second half of this year, the company says it plans to increase this to 19 percent. It also aims to continue on its quest of reducing the cost of silicon photovoltaic modules.

Energy storage

Samsung's solar strategy is to become a leading integrated solar module manufacturer, and that plan includes the manufacture and sale of inverters and energy storage systems (rechargeable batteries). The company says it plans to introduce its own inverters in 2013.

Storage is another key element of its future strategy. It is planning to have a range of rechargeable batteries for residential, medium, and large sized photovoltaic plants by 2015.

The only storage solution it has ready now is one for the residential market, for installations between five and seven kilowatts. Its larger batteries are still in R&D and will be available in "a couple of years". Planned market launch for the module +ESS solution is 2015.

Key focus

In an anonymous blog under our dedicated Intersolar webpage, batteries and storage technologies were said to be a key focus at this year’s Intersolar trade show, particularly in relation to developing countries, where grid access is hard to come by.

Sony Energy Devices Corporation presented its new lithium-ion rechargeable batteries at Intersolar this week, at a booth it shared with sister company, Sony Chemicals, which supplies the solar cell manufacturing industry with metal ribbon connecting materials and encapsulation resin backsheets.

Several target markets are said to be in view, including residential; backup power supply systems for mobile phone wireless base stations; recharging stations for EVs (electric vehicles); and for power leveling in large sized grid-connected power plants. The battery has a lifespan of 10 years when charged/discharged once daily at room temperature (23°C).

A Sony executive in the booth said that the boxes are ready to ship. It is currently producing 1,200 units a month.


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