REC Silicon confident over Moses Lake restart amidst strengthening PV poly demand

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REC Silicon suspended production at Moses Lake in Q2 2019 following difficult trading conditions and a trade dispute with China. Image: REC Silicon.

European polysilicon provider REC Silicon has pinned hopes on plans to develop an ultra-low carbon solar PV value chain amidst a strengthening polysilicon market, stating it is confident that it will restart production at its Moses Lake facility.  

Reporting its Q1 2021 results today, REC Silicon recorded revenues of US$28.1 million, down more than 20% sequentially on the US$36 million recorded in Q4 2020. Earnings however more than doubled sequentially to US$4 million.

The Oslo-headquartered company reported growth in its semiconductor materials segment, with earnings contributed by the division rising by 35% year-on-year to US$10.8 million on the back of surging demand for the material. Revenue from the business’ solar materials segment however continued to be paltry, actually halving year-on-year in the first quarter to around US$100,000, however losses were also reduced to US$1.9 million. Solar polysilicon sales in Q1 2021 stood at 47MT.

Tore Torvund, CEO at REC Silicon, lamented the company’s inability to cater for much of the demand for solar PV polysilicon due to trade disputes with China. Instead, REC Silicon is throwing its weight behind initiatives to develop an “ultra-low carbon footprint” PV value chain with other solar manufacturers, as well as the US government.

Late last year REC Silicon was revealed to be a partner of Violet Power, a US-based PV manufacturing start-up with facilities also planned in Moses Lake, Washington. REC Silicon was to partner with the Violet Power on its wafering operations, however the contract was abruptly cancelled in April this year, with both sides claiming to have terminated the deal.

Torvund added that the company intends to restart its Moses Lake facility – shuttered in 2019 – in 2023, with a formal decision expected later this year. REC Silicon specifically pointed to recent policy initiatives by the Biden-Harris administration to incentivise domestic manufacturing and the strengthening of US-based supply chains for key industries such as solar PV.

Furthermore, REC Silicon revealed that Group14 Technologies, an upstream manufacturer of silicon-carbon composite materials used in lithium-ion batteries, had begun operating a battery materials pilot plant at the Moses Lake facility, producing silicon anodes for use in batteries.

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