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Samsung teases 11 Texas fabs as $50 billion CHIPS Act vote nears

A semiconductor empire built under the water-starved Texas sun? What could go wrong?

+Comment As the US Senate prepares to vote on a $50 billion bill to subsidize stateside chip manufacturing, Samsung has lodged an 11th hour proposal to build 11 semiconductor fabs around Austin, Texas over the next two decades, at an estimated total cost of $200 billion.

As reported by the Austin American-Statesman, the South Korean semiconductor giant has filed 11 applications with the Taylor and Manor school districts, seeking tax breaks in return for building foundry facilities in the region.

The documents [PDF], posted on the Texas comptroller's website late Wednesday, outline plans to expand Samsung's operations well beyond the $17 billion fab already under construction in Taylor, 25 miles north of Austin.

The first of the 11 fabs would be built alongside the existing foundry projects in Taylor, with another ten proposed for Williamson County, each at a price tag of between $12 billion and $21.5 billion. At least 10,000 workers would be employed at the plants.

According to documents filed with the state, the earliest the first of the 11 fabs will come online is 2034 – more than a decade out – and the last is expected to open in the early 2040s.

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News of Samsung's expanded ambitions emerged as the US Senate readies itself to vote on the $50 billion CHIPS Act funding, aimed at bolstering domestic semiconductor manufacturing.

Intel has been the most vocal supporter of the bill, and tied its passage to its own plan to spend billions on new fabs in Arizona and Ohio.

The Register cannot be certain that news of Samsung's expanded ambitions was timed to ensure the Korean giant can get a share of some of the CHIPS Act's subsidies – but such conclusions are there to be drawn. Intel would be by far the biggest beneficiary from the bill as it stands.

Yet Samsung's plans also have obvious weak points. Semiconductor manufacturing consumes a lot of water and requires a reliable source of power.

Yet the US is in the midst of a record drought in much of the southwest, and the Lone Star State's power grid infamously failed during winter storms in 2021, taking existing fabs with it.

If Samsung's plan results in it scoring some cash, it may not be a bad thing.

Intel can't seem to make its 10nm chips work. Its next-gen Sapphire Rapids Xeon Scaleable processors — originally slated for release last year — have been delayed repeatedly. Meanwhile, Samsung is already delivering on more advanced manufacturing processes. Supporting Samsung could therefore meet the CHIPS Act's goal of ensuring the USA has a domestic supply of cutting-edge silicon.

Of course, Samsung has yet to commit to anything. Intel, on the other hand, has broken ground on more than $40 billion worth of new foundry capacity based largely on the assumption that it will receive government support. ®

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