Silicor Materials has announced the choice of a site at the port of Grundartangi in Iceland to build a polysilicon facility with a nameplate capacity of 16,000 metric tons annually. This will be the company’s first large-scale solar silicon production facility, and Silicor is well on its way to building the plant.
The company has already secured permits, sales commitments from purchasers, and letters of intent to supply electricity. Additionally, Silicor reports that it has engaged Iceland’s Arion bank to lead debt financing for the plant, and Centra Corporate Finance to raise equity. The company is still in negotiations with the government of Iceland over incentives for the plant, as well as in final negotiations over electricity supply.
Silicor produces solar-grade polysilicon, based on novel physical process which involves the conversion of metallurgical-grade silicon into a liquid instead of a gas during the process of creating high-purity polysilicon.
While the silicon produced is less pure than electronic grade polysilicon, at only six-nines purity, the company identifies a number of advantages to its process. These include a 2/3 reduction in electricity usage compared to the dominant Siemens process, and the creation of valuable aluminum compounds as by-products.
Silicor identified several reasons for the choice of Iceland. These include nearby markets for the aluminum alloys which it produces, and inexpensive, clean electricity from geothermal and hydroelectric generation. Iceland’s electricity rates were very competitive in comparison to other sites we considered, notes Silicor CEO Terry Jester.
In 2012 Silicor had announced a tentative agreement with a county in the U.S. state of Mississippi to build a polysilicon production facility there, which may have been derailed by Chinese tariffs on U.S. polysilicon.
We were ultimately challenged by the development that any material coming from this plant would have been subjected to import tariffs for customers in China (and potentially in Taiwan, pending the final Department of Commerce ruling later this month), notes CEO Jester. Ultimately, Iceland provided the most economically sound choice for Silicor and its customers.
Jester says that Silicor is still interested in manufacturing in the United States and hopes to site a future facility there.