Citing an expected increase in polysilicon demand from the photovoltaics and semiconductor industries in the near-term future, Wacker Chemie AG has purchased 550 acres (220 hectares) of land in Bradley County, Tennessee for the construction of a US$1 billion polysilicon plant. Plant construction timelines and capacity of the planned facility were not disclosed.
“We expect polysilicon demand from the solar and semiconductor industries to further increase in coming years,” explained Rudolf Staudigl, President and CEO of Wacker Chemie AG. “Purchasing the land is an essential prerequisite to quickly build up additional production capacities outside the euro zone in line with the projected market trends and growth in demand.”
According to Wacker, electricity costs in Tennessee are approximately 50% cheaper than that found in Germany, where Wacker currently operates polysilicon plants. Wacker said it would receive an over-the-fence supply of chlorine from an adjacent Olin Corporation facility.
In December 2008 Hemlock Semiconductor announced plans to build a new US$1.2 billion polysilicon plant based in Clarksville, Tennessee at a new greenfield site.
Hemlock and Wacker, the two largest polysilicon producers in the world, have been expanding capacity for several years to keep pace with demand, specifically from the solar industry. Despite current economic uncertainty, polysilicon plants of this scale can take approximately two years to build and another year or more to ramp to full capacity.