Texas power grid struggles a year after cold weather halted semiconductor factories

Samsung workers in a semiconductor factory [Photo courtesy of Samsung]

A heatwave in Texas shut down at least six power plants on Friday, with high temperatures forecast for this week.

A record cold snap in February 2021 shut down NXP Semiconductors and Samsung’s chip manufacturing facilities for weeks, contributing to a global semiconductor shortage that is still choking medical device production.

There’s no indication yet that recent power grid troubles will reduce or halt semiconductor production, but the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has urged residents to curb their electricity use before more heat hits.

“With unseasonably hot weather driving record demand across Texas, ERCOT continues to work closely with the energy industry to ensure Texans have the energy they need,” said Brad Jones, interim CEO by ERCOT, in a press release.

Medical Design & Outsourcing has requested more information from ERCOT, Samsung and NXP and will update this story once they respond.

Samsung plans to open a second Texas semiconductor fab in Taylor, near Samsung’s Austin chip fab. The new facility is scheduled to go into operation in 2024.

Announcing the new facility in November, Samsung said it was considering at least one other US site, but chose Taylor because of its proximity to the Austin plant, as well as “the local semiconductor ecosystem, the stability of the infrastructure, the support from… the local government and the development opportunities of the community”.

The $17 billion project is Samsung’s largest investment in the US, the company said.

“With greater manufacturing capacity, we will be able to better serve our customers’ needs and contribute to the stability of the global semiconductor supply chain,” said Dr. Kinam Kim, head of Samsung Electronics Device Solutions Division Press release announcing the project.

That same month, Texas Instruments — which also makes semiconductors for the medical device industry — announced plans to build and open two semiconductor fabs in Sherman, north of Dallas. Production at the first factory is slated to begin as early as 2025, and the project site could eventually have up to four new factories at a cost of $30 billion.

Dallas-based Texas Instruments already has a factory operating in Dallas and two are scheduled to open later this year in Richardson, Texas.

Netherlands-based NXP has two factories in Austin and is considering a $2.6 billion expansion there Austin-American Statesman reported last week. Operations could begin as early as 2026.

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