Hemlock reveals scale of new polysilicon plant

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With the start of actual construction of Hemlock Semiconductor’s new polysilicon plant, located in Clarksville, Tennessee, the largest polysilicon producer in the world has revealed both the initial production capacity of the plant as well as its future capacity capability. Initial cost of the plant was said to be US$1.2 billion and will employ approximately 500 workers when ramped. Hemlock has announced investments totalling more than US$4 billion for expanding polysilicon production over the last few years in a drive that is expected to keep the company in its leadership position.

Hemlock had announced plans for the Clarksville plant earlier this year, yet had not disclosed the planned capacity targets. Perhaps this was due to the rapidly declining spot market (though Hemlock sells under long-term contracts), as significant capacity from both traditional polysilicon producers and a wave of new entrants brought capacity online.

However, the new plant will have an initial capacity of greater than 10,000MT and the potential to be expanded to 21,000MT. The project is expected to take at least two years to build before coming onstream sometime in 2012.

Already this year, Hemlock has begun to ramp another new plant extension (8,500MT) at its major production site in Hemlock, MI, taking capacity to approximately 19,000MT in 2009, up from over 12,000MT in 2008, according to PV-Tech’s own data. By the end of 2011, Hemlock would have expanded capacity to over 25,000MT from existing ramp plans.

The new site in Clarksville will take capacity to 46,000MT in 2013 and after the second phase expansion, it will grow to 57,000MT. This figure does not include any further expansions at existing plants that may be possible and brought online before the next expansion phase in Clarksville.

According to the latest figures from Photon Consulting (Solar Annual 2009), total global polysilicon supply is expected to reach 95,000MT in 2009 and grow rapidly through 2012, reaching 427,000MT before declining due to PV installation saturation in the key market of Germany and significant overcapacity, forcing significant price erosion across the supply chain.

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