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Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) plans to break ground on its first solar cell factory before the end of this year, a company representative said Wednesday.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) plans to break ground on its first solar cell factory before the end of this year, a company representative said Wednesday. The board of directors at TSMC, the world's largest contract chip maker, have already approved $218 million for the project.

Although TSMC's main business is chips, it has expanded into clean energy technology in recent years. In March, for example, the company broke ground on a $101.6 million factory and research centre for LED (Light Emitting Diode) lighting in Hsinchu, Taiwan.

Solar cells create electricity from the radiation in sunlight. Using LED lighting saves electricity compared to standard incandescent bulbs. TSMC's new solar cell factory will complement its investments in the solar area.

Last year, the chip maker bought a 20 percent stake in Motech Industries, a Taiwanese solar cell maker. TSMC followed up that purchase by signing a technology and supply agreement with Stion Corporation, a producer of high-efficiency thin film solar photovoltaic modules. As part of that agreement, the companies will jointly develop Stion's technology and TSMC will manufacture solar modules for Stion

The TSMC representative declined to provide further details on the new solar cell factory beyond the ground breaking time frame.

He said the investment does not change TSMC's capital expenditure plan for this year, which the company set at $5.8 billion for its chip division and $100 million for new businesses, including solar. The $218 million intended for the solar cell factory will be spent over a time frame of more than just this year.