SAN JOSE, Calif. Hemlock Semiconductor Corp. Monday (July 31) said that it is launching a worldwide search for a potential second manufacturing site to produce polycrystalline silicon to support the growing demand from the solar and chip markets.
The search will begin immediately as company officials evaluate locations throughout the globe. Hemlock Semiconductor (Hemlock, Mich.), the world's largest producer of this material, said it would like to have the new facility operational within the next five years.
Factors in selecting the new site include: cost of energy, tax considerations, incentive programs, labor and land costs, and the surrounding infrastructure, according to the polysilicon supplier.
Hemlock Semiconductor is a joint venture of Dow Corning Corp. and two Japanese firms, Shin-Etsu Handotai Co. Ltd. and Mitsubishi Materials Corp.
Polycrystalline silicon, which is in short supply, is the cornerstone material used to produce solar cells. An ultra-pure version of the material is also the base-material for silicon wafers used in electronic devices.
Leading polycrystalline or polysilicon vendors Hemlock, MEMC, Mitsubishi Materials and Wacker cannot keep up with huge OEM demand and are reportedly sold out of these materials for the next two to three years, according to industry sources
"The solar industry requires polycrystalline silicon to continue to develop the next generation of solar technologies," said Richard Doornbos, president and CEO of Hemlock Semiconductor, in a statement. "We're looking for a site that enables us to expand and continue to serve customers around the world in this rapidly growing and progressive industry. Exploring opportunities for adding capacity in Michigan will get the same consideration as other potential global sites."
In November 2005, the company broke ground on an expansion at its existing facility in Hemlock, that will increase the site's current annual capacity of 10,000 metric tons to 14,500 metric tons in 2008 and then to 19,000 metric tons by 2009.
Marie Eckstein, vice president and general manager of Advanced Technologies at Dow Corning expects the solar energy industry to grow at a 30-to-40 percent pace over the next 10 years. "The solar industry is ripe with innovation, and shortages in polycrystalline silicon have held the industry back somewhat," said Eckstein. "Dow Corning and Hemlock Semiconductor are doing everything we can to help our customers continue to create innovative products that benefit people throughout the globe."