LG signs $435m MoU for Korean solar cell fab expansion

LG Electronics, the South Korean giant of the TV and consumer electronics world, has announced today that it is to invest $435 million in expanding its solar cell production facility in the city of Gumi, increasing its capacity from 1 GW to 1.8 GW by 2018.

An additional six production lines will be installed, taking the fab’s total to 14 lines. LG hopes to increase capacity to 3 GW of solar cell production by 2020 – the equivalent of the electrical power consumed by one million South Korean households.

After two decades of involvement in the solar industry, LG is confident that its "mainstream consumers" are now more than ready to give solar "serious consideration", said LG president and head of its energy business center and B2B office, Lee Sang-bong.

"As a result of this investment, LG’s solar power business will be in a much stronger position to be a dynamic engine for growth moving forward," Sang-bong added in a statement released by the company.

Last year, LG introduced its NeON 2 solar panel, which uses Cello technology comprising 12 thin wires instead of the traditional busbar approach. The NeON was designed to appeal to homeowners seeking increased solar output on their rooftops while operating with limited roof space.

According to electronics consumer portal Venture Beat, LG’s global communications director Ken Hong revealed that LG’s wider uncertainty over the growth of the smartphone and TV industries led it to turn its investment attentions to solar.

"One thing you will learn about Korean conglomerates is that they tend to invest big when times are tough or the future unclear," Hong told Venture Beat.

"This is how the likes of Samsung, Hyundai and LG have leapfrogged competition in the past decade to become global brands. Western companies, on the other hand, tend to batten down the hatches when times are tough to protect shareholders.

"Korean companies do not exist solely to appease shareholders."

LG first announced that it would be expanding its Gumi production line in August last year due to "strong global demand" for its Cello technology-integrated modules. The MoU is the first concrete step towards securing that expansion. Completion of phase one is expected in the first half of 2018.