Micron Partners With Australian Solar Company

Memory chip maker signs deal with Origin Energy to make solar components using new technology that could significantly lower cost of solar panels.

BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- Micron Technology Inc. has signed a deal with an Australian company to build solar components using new technology that could significantly lower the cost of solar panels.

Micron announced Thursday that it signed the deal with, which also generates and retails energy to about 3 million customers.

The Idaho Statesman reports the two companies signed the agreement in December.

"It was clear that combining our semiconductor manufacturing expertise with Origin Energy's solar experience could result in a powerful partnership," Micron Chairman and CEO Steve Appleton and Chief Operating Officer Mark Durcan said in an internal memo obtained by the newspaper.

Origin has already produced commercial solar panels using a silicon wafer called "sliver" technology in Australia. Origin says the sliver panels are built from cells thinner than most solar cells but are highly efficient.

Origin, on its Web site, said the sliver technology team's semiconductor specialist, Dmitri Gordeev, previously had worked at Micron.

Micron has laid off thousands of employees in recent years as its computer memory chip manufacturing has fallen off. A year ago the company said it wanted to convert unused buildings to making solar panels and light-emitting diodes -- or LEDs.

Mike Howard, a senior analyst with iSuppli and a former Micron employee, said the partnership makes sense.

"Micron isn't just getting into this to keep people busy," Howard said. "They want this to be a significant revenue generator."

He said that the hundreds of millions of dollars Micron spent on its silicon memory plants in Boise could now be used to advance both solar and LED technology.

Micron continues to make memory chips for computers, and in December reported a profit of more than $200 million.

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