AU Optronics (AUO) and Chi Mei Optolectronics (CMO) are planning to explore the solar panel market by modifying their older LCD fabs. Solar equipment suppliers claimed a US$250 million price to build a 100 mega-watt (MW) solar panel production line based on TFT glass substrates.
AUO is presumably in the process of modifying its G3.5 and smaller fabs to manufacture low temperature poly-silicon (LTPS) TFT LCD panels. The company is also contacting solar panel equipment suppliers as its TFT LCD panel production process can be modified for solar panel manufacture. CMO is also aggressively collection information regarding solar panel production requirements.
After minor modifications, the chemical vapor deposition (CVD), cleaning, sputtering equipment used to manufacture TFT LCD panels can be used to make solar panels. Insiders are forecasting around two years before Taiwan-based LCD suppliers mass produce solar panels with modified older generation LCD fabs.
I am not aware of a great increase in solar panel demand. However, once one of these large LCD manufacturers begin volume production of solar panels that lead to major drops in solar panel prices, that might spike a major demand that could lead to a potentially vast market. I am all for solar energy as it is virtually free and in sunny California we have an abundance of photons all around.