After years of construction, Wacker Polysilicon has officially opened its new Charleston, Tennessee, production site, which is the company’s single largest investment ever, totaling about $2.5 billion.
Wacker Polysilicon is a global company that produces hyperpure polycrystalline silicon. Its product portfolio also includes pyrogenic silica, chlorosilanes and salt.
“[The Charleston plant] gives us the capacity to meet demand growth for our high-grade polysilicon and the basis for a fully integrated production site in the world’s second-largest chemical market,” Wacker CEO Rudolf Staudigl said, according to a news release.
In coming months, Wacker will gradually ramp up production, and leaders expect to reach full capacity of more than 20,000 metric tons per year in the third quarter of 2016.
About 600 people currently work at the site, and when it’s fully operationally, that number should increase by about 50, according to a news release.
Wacker began starting up individual plant sections in December after a construction period of just under five years.
An array of guests, including Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, attended the opening Monday.
“A year ago, this was one of the country’s largest construction sites-today, it’s one of the nation’s most impressive plants,” Alexander said in a prepared statement. “This is a significant step for Tennessee manufacturing, when skilled Tennessee workers are being relied upon to manufacture some of the world’s purest silicon to furnish solar panels that will help ensure plenty of clean energy in the future.”
Staudigl also said that growth opportunities are arising because of photovoltaics’ continued progress around the globe.
“Cost for electricity produced by photovoltaic systems has declined markedly in recent years,” he said, according to a news release. “Consequently, this way of generating energy has become even more competitive, which is opening up new markets.”