Why Intel and TSMC are building water-dependent chip factories in one of the driest U.S. states
The biggest semiconductor manufacturers in the world are quickly trying to build new factories as the global chip crisis continues to wreak havoc on a plethora of industries.
U.S. semiconductor giant Intel announced in March that it plans to spend $20 billion on two new chip plants in Arizona. Separately, TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) said it was going to build a $12 billion factory in Arizona, and chief executive C.C. Wei said Wednesday that construction had already begun.
The Grand Canyon State may not, however, seem like the most obvious place for a chip “foundry” or “fab” since the high-tech manufacturing plants guzzle millions of gallons of water every day.
At present, in the face of climate change, Arizona is facing a deepening water crisis and some of the state’s all-important aquifers have an uncertain future.
Arizona received just 13.6 inches of rainfall on average per year between 1970 and 2000, according to the NOAA National Climatic Data Center, making it the fourth driest state nationwide. Conversely, Hawaii and Louisiana recorded the highest levels of average yearly precipitation in the U.S. over the same time frame, reporting 63.7 inches and 60.1 inches, respectively.
“Water is a key element in semi manufacturing, but the infrastructure has been put in place [in Arizona] to ensure adequate supply to meet the industry’s current needs,” Alan Priestley, vice president analyst at tech research firm Gartner, told CNBC.
A key consideration of any new construction would most likely be contributions to enhancing the water supply infrastructure, he added.
Glenn O’Donnell, vice president and research director at analyst firm Forrester, told CNBC that chip fabrication plants “recycle water religiously,” adding that it’s a bit like a swimming pool in an enclosed building.
“You need a lot to fill it, but you don’t have to add much to keep it going,” he said. “Also, being in an enclosed space, a lot of the water that evaporates can be captured with a dehumidifier and returned to the pool. The fabs will do similar things with their own water usage.”
Intel notes on its website that it is striving to achieve “net positive water use” in Arizona and that it has funded 15 water restoration projects that aim to benefit the state. “Once fully implemented, these projects will restore an estimated 937 million gallons each year,” the company says.
TSMC and Intel, two of the biggest heavyweights in the chip industry, have chosen to expand in Arizona for several other reasons, according to the analysts.
Intel has had a presence in Arizona for over 40 years and the state is home to a well-established semiconductor ecosystem. Other major chip companies with a presence in Arizona include On Semiconductor, NXP and Microchip.
Intel now employs over 12,000 people in Arizona and the state is home to Intel’s newest manufacturing facility, Fab 42.
As Intel has increased its presence in Arizona, the local universities have “established a strong reputation for semiconductor design courses and research providing a highly-skilled work force for the local semi industry,” Priestley said. “This has helped create an ecosystem of companies to supply the products and services necessary to manufacture chips.”
TSMC will be “able to tap into these resources and [the] ecosystem of supply chain vendors,” Priestley said.
Local tax breaks and incentives “will have played a big part” in the initial site selection, he continued, noting that land availability, land costs, housing costs and the local economy will have also been considered.
The case for Arizona doesn’t stop there. Its seismic stability and relatively low risk of other natural interference are appealing to chipmakers, O’Donnell said.
“A chip factory cannot shake, not even a microscopic amount,” he said, adding that they set such factories into the bedrock to keep them still. “Even a 0.5 Richter shake can ruin an entire crop of chips.”
That said, Intel does have some chip plants on the West Coast of the U.S., where the ground is more susceptible to earthquakes. The company has a huge presence in Hillsboro, Oregon, for example.
“The West Coast does have fabs but they need to take great measures to isolate the shaking,” said O’Donnell. “They don’t need such drastic measures in Arizona because it shakes a lot less.”
Arizona is also immune from most other natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires, O’Donnell said.
With its bountiful sunshine, Arizona also boasts “dependable, plentiful and green electrical power,” O’Donnell said, calling out Salt River Project as a local power utility in the Phoenix area that caters to big consumers of power. A chip foundry needs power on the scale of a steel plant, according to O’Donnell.
Ultimately, it largely boils down to politics.
“The political machinery in Arizona is determined to make the state business friendly,” said O’Donnell. “More business equals more and better jobs equals more votes to the power brokers. The recent announcements by Intel and TSMC come via a lot of help from federal, state and local government entities.”
Ford Mustang Mach-E to lose EV tax credit
If you are thinking about buying Ford’s electric Mustang Mach-E, you may want to do so before the end of the year. Ford expects the Mach-E will no longer qualify for the federal EV tax credit.
Ford Mach-E will no longer qualify for the EV tax credit
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is due for drastric changes at the end of the year that will affect which EVs will qualify for the tax credit.
Starting on January 1, more restrictions will be put into place. EVs with battery components from a “foreign entity of concern,” including China will lose a portion of the tax credit.
In 2025, the rules will get even tighter. The changes are designed to promote manufacturing in the US while building up a reliable EV supply chain network.
Ford expects to be among several automakers with EVs losing access. Tesla has already said its Model 3 RWD and Long Range will lose $3,750, starting January 1. Meanwhile, it will still qualify for the other $3,750.
In a bulletin sent to dealers (via CarsDirect), Ford said it expects the changes to impact the Mustang Mach-E. Although Ford is “awaiting finalized requirements,” given what we know, “it is unlikely that any Mustang Mach-Es will qualify” beginning the first of the year.
The company didn’t explain why the Mach-E will no longer qualify for the EV tax credit, but it’s likely due to the CATL-supplied LFP batteries.
Qualified customers are still eligible for a $3,750 credit, “making this an excellent motivator to purchase before the end of the year,” Ford added.
Shoppers can still take advantage of the full $7,500 tax credit through leasing. Meanwhile, Ford didn’t indicate the Lightning would be impacted by the changes.
Ford’s electric truck had its best sales month ever in November. All F-150 Lightning trims, except the Platinum version, qualify for up to $7,500 in savings. The Platinum model is excluded as it exceeds the IRA’s $80K cutoff.
Ready to make a move and save on Ford’s electric vehicles while you still can? You can use our links below to find great deals at a dealership near you today.
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The US’s first utility-scale offshore wind farm delivers its first power
New York’s South Fork Wind has become the first utility-scale offshore wind farm to generate power in the US.
The first operational wind turbine at South Fork Wind sent clean power to Long Island today. The project has completed the installation of two turbines around 35 miles off Montauk, with all 12 SG 11-200 DD Siemens Gamesa turbines expected to be installed by early 2024.
The energy produced is being sold to the Long Island Power Authority under the terms of a 20-year agreement.
Stephanie McClellan, executive director at offshore wind nonprofit Turn Forward, said:
The generation of power from South Fork Wind is an incredible moment in the American clean energy story and for the Long Island communities that will benefit from this project for decades to come.
The 130-megawatt (MW) South Fork Wind will be the US’s first completed utility-scale wind farm in federal waters.
Danish renewables giant Ørsted is jointly developing the offshore wind farm with Boston-based energy provider Eversource. South Fork Wind’s first offshore wind turbine foundation was installed at the end of June, and its first US-built offshore substation was completed at the end of July.
South Fork Wind will produce enough clean energy to power 70,000 homes in New York. It will deliver clean energy directly to the electric grid in East Hampton via a single transmission line installed in March.
It will eliminate up to 6 million tons of carbon emissions, or the equivalent of taking 60,000 cars off the road annually over a 25-year period.
Photo: South Fork Wind
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U.S. crude drops below $70 per barrel, gas prices fall to 11-month low
Gas prices at a Shell gas station in Washington, DC, US, on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023.
Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images
U.S. crude declined nearly 4% on Wednesday with retail gasoline prices hitting the lowest point since January ahead of the holiday shopping and travel season.
U.S. crude and the global benchmark have hit their lowest levels since June, despite efforts by OPEC+ to boost prices by promising to slash supply in the first quarter of 2024.
Prices at the pump in the U.S., meanwhile, have followed oil prices lower to hit $3.22 a gallon on average as of Wednesday, the lowest price since Jan. 3, according to AAA.
Oil prices have been on a steep downward trajectory from September highs as nations outside OPEC+, particularly the U.S., pump crude at breakneck clip and worries grow about the Chinese economy.
Moody’s on Tuesday downgraded its outlook for China’s government credit raging to negative from stable.
U.S. crude inventories fell by 4.6 million barrels for the week ending Dec. 1 and gasoline supplied to the market increased by 260,000 barrels per day, according to the Energy Information Agency.
Falling inventories and rising gasoline deliveries implies higher demand, which would typically boost oil prices. Pessimism about the economic outlook in China, however, appeared to be weighing heavier on crude prices.
Oil traders have also been skeptical OPEC+, which includes OPEC members and its allies like Russia, will deliver on supply cuts of 2.2 million bpd in the first quarter next year.
Several OPEC+ members announced the voluntary cuts last week after the group failed to reach a unanimous agreement on production targets.
Saudi Energy Minister Price Abdulaziz bin Salman and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak sough to assure the market this week that they could extend or even deepen the promised cuts.
Tamas Varga, an analyst with PVM Oil Associates, said those reassurances have “fallen to deaf ears.”
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