Wacker Chemie AG will build a $1 billion plant in southeastern Tennessee that is estimated to create 500 green collar jobs in the region to manufacture hyperpure polycrystalline silicon, primary material used in the manufacture of solar panels. The company has purchased a 550-acre site about 30 miles northeast of Chattanooga.
“We expect polysilicon demand from the solar and semiconductor industries to further increase in the coming years,” said Dr. Rudolph Staudigl, President and CEO of Wacker Chemie. said He further explained how purchasing the site in Chattanooga will enable it to quickly build up its production capacity outside of the Euro zone in order to meet the projected growth in demand forHemlock Semiconductor detailing its plans to build a new US$1.2 billion polysilicon plant based in Clarksville, Tennessee.
Hemlock Semiconductor Corporation (HSC) is the worlds largest producer of polysilicon and Wacker Chemie AG is the world’s second largest producer of polysilicon. Taken together these two announcements suggest that Tennessee is rapidly positioning itself as an emerging player in the solar manufacturing industrial sector, leveraging its supply of inexpensive electricity, geographic location, and transportation infrastructure. In fact the Tennessee site was picked in part because of its size, proximity to a OLIN Corp (a chlorine manufacturer), power from the Tennessee Valley Authority and the transportation infrastructure. Wholesale electricity costs in the TVA service area are approximately 50% less than in Germany, where Wacker currently operates polysilicon plants.
There is vast potential for solar energy development across the southeastern and southwestern United States. In fact, the United States has some of the best solar resources in the world. With the right policies and leadership from the government this sector is poised to take off and experience a long period of very rapid growth, becoming an important contributor to our nation’s electric energy mix and providing many tens of thousands of green collar jobs across the country.
Growth in the US manufacture of solar PV cells has been hampered by a shortage of polysilicon. Demand for polysilicon is rising incredibly fast, manufacturers are scrambling to keep up. The photovoltaic solar industry sectors growth was hampered during the 2006-2008 period due to severe shortages and allocations of the polysilicon material. This skyrocketing of demand has led to a significant rise in openings of new polysilicon manufacturing companies, especially in the U.S. where increasing federal and state incentives are pushing up demand.
Wacker Chemie AG is a globally operating chemical company with expertise in fields such as silicone and polymer chemistry, specialty and fine chemistry, polysilicon production and semiconductor technologies. It reported last month that its sales reached $5.5 billion in 2008.
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