"Be first, do it right, work smart" is the philosophy of LG Electronics, as evident from the banner hanging proudly at the front door of its photovoltaic manufacturing facilities in Gumi, as from the companys ambitious solar plans, which Yun Ju Hwan, senior manager of LGs solar product planning team, outlines to pv magazine.
For starters, he says sister company, LG Chemical is currently working on a solar storage solution, which is expected to go into mass production in the fourth quarter of 2013. While he would not reveal the specific details, he did say company representatives will be attending Intersolar Europe this June to unveil the prototype, for households, to a select industry audience (the company will not exhibit at the tradeshow). He added that the battery will be capable of supporting a photovoltaic system of up to six kilowatt hours.
The technology being used is lithium ion batteries. These are normally too expensive, says Yun Ju Hwan, however, "in the near future" LG, which also makes batteries for General Motors, will have achieved cost competitiveness in this area.
In addition to storage solutions, LGs solar division is also looking to launch amorphous silicon (a-Si) thin film modules in 2013. Again, most of the details are shrouded in secrecy, but Yun Ju Hwan says that LG Electronics has developed a new product line and will be ready to produce the modules next year. The company still needs to source the manufacturing equipment, however. Meanwhile, another sister company of LG, LG Innotek, focuses on CIGS technology. No further information was provided.
LG Chemical was also supposed to have set up an in-house polysilicon manufacturing facility. However, following the tumultuous year experienced in 2011, these plans have been temporarily suspended. Again, there are currently no more details available.
Capacity ramp ups
Likewise, LG intended to ramp up both its crystalline photovoltaic cell and module lines to one gigawatt. But, like many solar companies, the brakes have been applied. As such, current manufacturing capacity is sitting at 330 megawatts each for cells and modules.
Monocrystalline products are said to be LGs most popular, although it also manufacturers multi-crystalline products. It has dedicated one floor to its cell production lines (five) and one floor to its module lines.
The first turnkey cell production line came from Germany, but the company customized the remaining four after this, using its own technology. While it is fully automated, there are people which work on the lines, operating equipment. The company also has a certified testing lab.
As Yun Ju Hwan states, to have a big capacity will not necessarily make you successful. Quality and higher efficiencies are more important, he believes. In relation to module efficiencies, he adds that LG will achieve over 20 percent "soon".
He goes on to say that the crystalline silicon market will be important for the next five years. Germany, the U.S. and Japan are interesting markets, but China is almost "closed", and very competitive. Overall, he expects that the solar market will pick up again in the second half of 2013.