Wacker opens US polysilicon production site in Tennessee

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Germany’s Wacker Chemie AG on Monday opened its new polysilicon production site in the U.S. state of Tennessee.

The new site is Wacker’s largest single investment ever, totaling some $2.5 billion. Wacker began starting up individual sections of the Charleston-based plant in December after a construction period of nearly five years.

The plant has already produced some 1,000 metric tons of polysilicon. Wacker will ramp up production in the coming months, reaching full capacity of more than 20,000 metric tons a year by the third quarter of 2016.

Speaking at the plant’s opening, Wacker CEO Rudolf Staudigl said the continued advancement of solar PV around the globe was driving growth opportunities.

“Cost for electricity produced by photovoltaic systems has declined markedly in recent years,” he added. As a result, PV was becoming more competitive “and opening up new markets.”

Newly installed global capacity is set to grow again this year to between 60 GW and 70 GW, with capacity additions particularly high in China, the U.S., Japan and India, Staudigl said.

“This will spur demand for high-grade material of the best quality, as supplied by Wacker.”

The new Tennessee plant, which will have a total of 650 employees when operational, will become the company’s fully integrated silicon site in the U.S., the chief exec added.

pv magazine’s Sam Pothecary is in Tennessee and will be reporting in depth on Wacker’s new plant and the company’s global strategy in the coming days.

The new Wacker plant opened two months after rival REC Silicon shut down polysilicon production at its U.S. plant in Moses Lake, Washington, due to Chinese import duties on U.S. polysilicon. The company said it expected production to be down until June, dependent on ongoing negotiations towards a resolution in the solar trade war and the general market development outside of China.