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LCD Makers May Enter Thin-Film Solar Market, Manz Says

Thin Film Solar Production
A sputter chamber deposits thin film layers to create cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin film cells in a Solar Lab at General Electric Co. Several competitors are entering the thin film solar market. Photographer: Vijay Paruchuru/Bloomberg

LCD panel makers including Samsung Electronics Co., LG Electronics Inc. and Foxconn Technology Co. may convert factories to produce thin-film solar panels when demand more than triples for electricity produced from sunlight, Manz AG said.

The companies can introduce thin-film technology to their glass-manufacturing lines and produce modules at about 30 cents a watt or less, according to Dieter Manz, Manz’s chief executive officer. The Reutlingen, Germany-based company makes machines that produce flat-panel displays and solar products.

Developers installed about 30 gigawatts of solar panels worldwide in 2011, and Manz said the market will be big enough to attract LCD companies when it reaches 100 gigawatts a year. A high-volume LCD factory may be converted to a thin-film solar plant with about 5 gigawatts of annual production capacity.

“In three years, more than half the players will be new entrants,” Manz said in an interview in Munich June 13. “Samsung, LG, Foxconn, all of them will come. For them it was too small before, so they wait for the market to be 100 gigawatts and then they step in.”

First Solar Inc., the world’s largest thin-film solar company, produced panels for 69 cents a watt in the first quarter, according to data the Tempe, Arizona-based company released May 3.

Manz last month posted a first-quarter loss before interest and taxes of 4.9 million euros. The company expects 2012 sales to be comparable to last year.

The company is close to winning its first orders for its systems that make solar panels using copper-indium-gallium-selenide, or CIGS, technology, the CEO said.

“We’ll sell maybe even more than one line by the end of the year,” Manz said. “There is interest in China and in other regions.”

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