South Korea Becoming A Contender In Solar

Although Japan currently remains Asia’s reigning champion of CleanTechnology, over the past few years South Korea has been quietlyshaping itself up to be a contender in a race whose social, economicand environmental benefits have spurred countries like India and Chinato recently pledge and invest vast sums of money into developingrenewable energy projects, many of which utilize solar power. ThisJanuary, LG announced that it would spend $340 million over the following five years to buy silicon used in solar panels from a Norway’s REC Wafer, while a 10-megawatt solar park is slated for production northeast of Seoul. LG Solar Energy, an affiliate of LG Group, completed a 14-megawatt solar energy plantin July, the largest in the nation, and the two-lettered makers of theChocolate announced in October that it would shift a plasma-panelfactory to solar cell production. Analysts have tossed aroundpredictions of one gigawatt’s worth of new installations by 2012, andif Korea’s technological manpower and know-how is any ruler to measureby, these aren’t wild guesses. From Forbes:

Experts say green tech is a natural fit for companies like LG andSamsung, which employ armies of researchers and engineers, haveexpertise in silicon and other forms of high-tech manufacturing andoperate their own factories.

“All the basic technology is here,” says Dr. Dae-je Chin, Korea’sformer Minister of Information and Communication. “Solar cellmanufacturing is simple compared to semiconductors,” he adds.

[Woo] Paik [Chief Technology Officer of LG Electronics] agrees.“It’s a great fit. We already have the know-how on the manufacturingside.”

Korean firms’ venture into solar technology is, of course, not freefrom the hurdles that face any adventurer hacking into new terrain,particularly when government incentives are scant, policy framework isfaint and cheap material is hard to come by. And while Korea’s solarindustry may lack the maturity of its counterpart in Japan and theflash and boom of that of the Chinese solar industry, it may prove tobe a sleeping, growing giant yet.

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