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Local media reports Hynix in talks with solar companies about Eugene, OR, fab

26 July 2008 | By Tom Cheyney | Chip Shots

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The impending closure of Hynix Semiconductor's Eugene, OR, 200-mm fab and resultant layoff of more than 1400 employees and contract workers announced last Thursday has sent shockwaves through the community--but the story may end up having a silver lining, or at least a sunny outcome. The local Register-Guard newspaper ran an extensive feature in Friday's edition, with the headline "Hynix, solar company talk: State, local officials report negotiations but say it's not sure thing."

One county official said in the article that Hynix officials were talking with a company that does "solar-power-generating silicon product manufacturing," but does not specify whether that would be wafering, cell manufacturing, or module production--or a vertically integrated factory.

The reporters did talk with some unnamed Hynix workers, who mentioned seeing representatives from one company in particular. Here's an excerpt from the story, which might contradict the "silicon product" angle unless the silicon involved were to be of the thin film variety:
"Hynix employees--who on Thursday declined to be identified for fear of retribution by the company--report contact at the Eugene plant with Jusung Engineering, a South Korean equipment manufacturer, which recently launched a solar-panel manufacturing venture with the Indian firm Goldstone Infratech.

"The group is building a production facility in Hyderabad, India, to supply the European market. It's expected to begin production in March, according to news reports. Goldstone Infratech intends to set up solar panel plants worldwide, according to a company news release.

Kiseung Lee, manager of Jusung America Inc., the Korean firm's U.S. subsidiary based in Austin, TX, declined to comment about the Hynix plant.

Jusung's solar design-and-manufacturing process produces thin-film solar panels, an appealing technological development, Laird said.

Oregon has "targeted thin film as a way to diversify our manufacturing base. We'd really like to see a project in that area," he said.

[Bruce] Laird [an Oregon state official] was cautious about the Hynix plant's future.

"'I don't want to be overly optimistic because that could play out in a cruel fashion,' he said. '(But) the community is fabulous. It's got all the right green policies. It's got a drop-dead work force, a university structure. It's got a strong solar component that's growing. If there was a place we should see success, it would be there: in the Eugene market.'"

The article also discusses other hypothetical purchasers of the Hynix plant, such as a nonmemory semiconductor company seeking extra capacity, firms needing server farm space, even a hospital firm turning the fab into a medical facility.

But the possibility of another semiconductor-to-solar factory conversion in Oregon, similar to the one SolarWorld is undertaking at its new Hillsboro silicon wafer and cell fab (which was once a Komatsu plant), has the full attention of state officials, who have been wooing solar manufacturers and have a pretty good arsenal of incentives and tax breaks to offer renewables companies. It has also buoyed many people's hopes in Eugene-Springfield area still reeling from the shutdown news.

(Click here for a related story in the Friday edition of Portland. OR's Oregonian paper.)

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Hynix to receive US$960 million in new funding - 22 April 2009

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