Recently Wacker Chemie AG officially opened its new polysilicon production site in the US State of Tennessee. The ceremony in Charleston was attended by numerous guests from politics, business and government, including Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and the state’s two US Senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker. The new site is WACKER’s largest single investment ever, totaling some US$ 2.5 billion. WACKER began starting up individual plant sections at Charleston in December after a construction period of just under five years. So far, about 1,000 metric tons of polysilicon have been produced there. In the coming months, WACKER will gradually ramp up production and expects to reach Charleston’s full capacity of over 20,000 metric tons per year in the third quarter of 2016. Currently, the site has about 600 employees and, when fully operational, should have some 650.
In his speech, WACKER CEO Rudolf Staudigl highlighted the fact that growth opportunities are arising due to photovoltaics’ continued progress around the globe. “Cost for electricity produced by photovoltaic systems has declined markedly in recent years. Consequently, this way of generating energy has become even more competitive, which is opening up new markets,” explained Staudigl. Newly installed global capacity would grow again this year, he said, and amount to between 60 and 70 gigawatts according to WACKER’s estimates. Capacity additions would be particularly high in China, the USA, Japan and India. “This will spur demand for high-grade material of the best quality, as supplied by WACKER,” emphasized Staudigl. In the photovoltaic sector, silicon technology has clearly beaten other technologies, he said.
Charleston, continued Staudigl, would give WACKER the basis in the long term for a fully integrated silicon site in the USA, the world’s second-largest chemical market. Currently, WACKER is looking into constructing a new production facility there for its HDK® pyrogenic silica. Ultrapure amorphous silicon dioxide powder is used as a filler in silicone elastomers and as a viscosity-adjusting agent, for example, in coatings, printing inks and adhesives. It also serves as a flow aid in the cosmetics, pharmaceutical and food industries. WACKER is the world’s third-largest manufacturer in this sector.