How Samsung Is Tackling Greentech

Just over six months have passed since Korean electronics giant Samsung unveiled a multibillion-dollar push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its factories and slash the amount of emissions resulting from its consumer products. But already the South Korea-based conglomerate has its fingers in more than a few greentech pots, including wind power, energy storage, solar manufacturing and solar project development, biomaterials, and energy efficient consumer electronics.

Like energy and engineering conglomerates General Electric (s GE) and Siemens, Samsung has a sprawling stake in greentech, and some of the company’s longstanding tech (semiconductors) and services (large-scale and offshore engineering) could find new markets. As Greentech Media has noted, “The Samsung group includes companies specializing in hotels, construction, chemicals, securities, sugar, etc., all of whom are potential test customers and lab partners.” Here are five (plus one) key greentech plays from Samsung.

Start-to-Finish Wind Projects: Last month the government of Ontario, Canada announced an agreement for Samsung C&T Corp and partner Korea Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) to set up and operate several wind projects throughout the province, for a total capacity of 2,000 megawatts within 20 years (the deal also included 500 megawatts from solar power). According to a release from Samsung, the project — slated for construction in a series of “clusters” — will have generating capacity of at least 2.5 gigawatts by 2016.

Samsung C&T plans to handle multiple steps along the way toward actual construction of these projects. According to the company’s announcement, “Samsung C&T will facilitate all project operations, overseeing the entire process of establishing the wind and solar power cluster, procuring equipment and financing while KEPCO, with its expertise in power generation technology, will be responsible for designing and connecting the transmission and distribution system in operating the plant facilities.”

Samsung has set its sights on a major expansion into the U.S. and EU wind markets in coming years through its Samsung Heavy Industries unit, drawing on decades of work in the shipbuilding industry to produce wind turbine blades and the control systems for wind power generators. By 2015, SHI aims to garner 10 percent of the world market for wind power generators.

Providing Energy Storage for Vehicles & the Grid: Samsung SDI plans to start producing lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles next year through a joint venture with Germany-based Robert Bosch. Dubbed SB LiMotive Co., the joint venture was established in 2008 and originally targeted production for 2010, with Samsung SDI working to translate its experience with lithium-ion battery cells for laptops, phones and power tools over to batteries for automotive applications.

Producing Solar Cells & Gear: Samsung Electronics opened a pilot line for crystalline silicon solar cell production in Giheung, South Korea last fall, according to reports from the Korean Herald, claiming cell conversion rates of between 15 and 20 percent. PV-Tech noted that, “Although details remain thin on the ground, Samsung was said to be mulling over when to begin volume production, while reiterating plans to be a solar cell market leader by the end of 2015.”

Samsung has invested in solar technology beyond the cells themselves. Last month, as Renewable Energy World reported, Samsung America and Aspen Aerogels announced an agreement for Samsung to “market and sell Aspen Aerogels’ thermal insulation products to the concentrated solar thermal industry in the U.S. and Europe.” Samsung’s key contributions in this deal? Name recognition and marketing reach in the hydrocarbon processing and energy industries.

Adopting Bio-based Materials: Samsung joined the growing crowd of phone makers and carriers launching new “green” cell phone brands and services last summer with the debut of its “Reclaim” phone, made available to Sprint (s S) customers in August 2009. The phone is made of 80 percent recycled materials, with 40 percent of the outer casing produced with bioplastics from corn (not so green) and lacking most of the toxic chemicals usually found in mobile phones.

Building and Operating Solar Power Plants: Samsung’s next move into greentech could come through a deal with California utility Pacific Gas & Electric (s PCG). As Todd Woody reports today for Green Inc., the utility has requested approval for “a series of 25-year contracts for 130 megawatts’ worth of photovoltaic power plants to be built,” by a Solar Project Solutions — Samsung America’s joint venture with Edison International subsidiary ENCO Utility Services.

These PG&E projects come on the heels of the agreement with the Ontario government to develop 500 megawatts of solar power generating capacity. Together, the deals amount to a huge new push from Samsung, which to date has built only three megawatts of solar projects. According to a filing from PG&E that Woody highlights in his article, the firm has “acted as the main engineering, procurement, and construction contractor for conventional energy projects” totaling more than 5,200 megawatts.

Plus: Improving Energy Efficiency: Efficiency improvements across Samsung’s lineup of electronic devices could make a small but notable dent in notebook energy needs, not to mention battery life. As Pedro Hernandez wrote over on GigaOM Pro (subscription required) earlier this month, the company’s “new 30-nanometer Green DRAM 2 gigabyte DDR3 modules consume 30 percent less power then the current 50-nanometer variety. It’s enough to cut overall power consumption of a typical notebook PC by 3 percent.” Not earth shattering, but a start.

Related GigaOM Pro reports (subscription required):

Green Materials Matter to Gadget Buyers

A Good, Green Smartphone

Better Battery Life Motivates Mobile Chipmakers