Employees are working at Woongjin Energy’s wafer factory in Gumi, North Gyeongsang Province.
South Korea’s Woongjin Energy Co. is running its silicon ingot and wafer factories at a full rate thanks to revived demand for photovoltaic energy across the world including Korea where the new government is actively promoting use of renewable energy sources.
Woongjin Energy said on Sunday its factory employees will work in shifts to run the production lines every day at a full rate even during the country’s unprecedented 10-day lengthy holiday week for Chuseok that has started this week. It is currently running its Daejeon factory and the newly added Gumi factory in North Gyeongsang Province at a 100 production rate to roll out 24 million wafers per month, according to the company.
“Wafers for solar cells are in short supply globally as supply lags far behind demand,” explained an unnamed official at the company. “We are striving to expand our output to meet the growing demand from our customers.”
Woongjin Energy is the only manufacturer of monocrystalline silicon ingots and wafers for solar cells in Korea. A number of Korean companies had jumped into the solar wafer business, but a majority of them have withdrawn from the market after fierce competition from Chinese peers armed with low-priced products squeezed profitability. The number of PV ingot and wafer manufacturers in the world that once reached 70 has also fallen to 10 recently.
Woongjin Energy that has successfully survived the competition has emerged as a major player in the photovoltaic silicon ingot and wafer industry. In particular, demand for the company’s products is surging as a growing number of solar energy suppliers are seeking high-quality monocrystalline silicon wafers with a 30 percent higher efficiency over cheap polycrystalline wafers with lower-quality.
Meeting the growing demand, Woongjin Energy has entered into partnership with Hanwha Chemical Corp. and received 10 billion won ($8.7 million) worth equity investment to ramp up production. Last year, it also took over manufacturing facilities of SKC Solmics and E&R Solar (former STX Solar)’s Gumi factory. Now, Woongjin Energy can produce about 24 million units of wafers per month.
Thanks to the upbeat solar cell business, Woonjin Energy has successfully swung back to profits this year. The company posted an operating profit of 1.9 billion won on sales of 119.1 billion won in the first half ended June this year. Market analysts expected the company’s sales this year would be doubled to 240 billion won from five years ago.
Shares of Woongjin Energy on September 29 closed 0.53 percent down at 7,550 won from the previous session.
By Jin Young-tae
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business News Korea & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]