Silicon Production Plant Begins Operation

Solar Grade Silicon LLC (SGSilicon) has begun full production of polycrystalline silicon at its Moses Lake facility. The initial start up has been successful with all polysilicon CVD reactors available modified to produce 2000 metric tons annually of solar grade polysilicon for the PV industry.

Moses Lake, Washington – March 12, 2003 [] The project includes development of a new rod breaking process and bulk packaging for products. Five standard solar grade products, including chip-form, chunk-form and rod-form polysilicon have been developed for solar silicon ingot producers. SGSilicon is the first production plant to be wholly dedicated to the supply of feedstock to the PV industry. Extensive modifications were made to the process to manufacture a cost-effective feedstock. The PV industry has relied on scrap polysilicon or limited amounts of polysilicon available only during periods of low demand from the semiconductor industry. Despite low IC prices, the demand for semiconductor materials has been increasing, with projections of polysilicon shortages developing over the next year. In times of high demand for semiconductors, PV feedstock supplies become limited and expensive. SGS plans to serve the needs of the expanding PV market with continued capacity increases. SGSilicon manufactures polysilicon in two steps at the 100-acre Moses Lake plant. Silane (SiH4) is produced by a patented process, reacting metallurgical grade silicon with hydrogen and silicon tetrachloride to form trichlorosilane. The trichlorosilane is then converted to silane in redistribution reactors. The continuous-flow process recycles all hydrogen and chloride materials to the initial reactors, achieving a low waste, low-impact, environmentally friendly process. The silane is then decomposed in hot filament chemical vapor deposition reactors, modified to produce lower-cost solar grade polysilicon. The CVD reactors yield large diameter rods at 2 meters in length, which are then broken and sized into standard chip, chunk and rod forms. The company is a joint venture of Advanced Silicon Materials LLC (ASiMI), a subsidiary of Komatsu Ltd., Japan, and Silicon Technologies AS, a subsidiary of Renewable Energy Corp., Norway. Tor Hartmann has been named President of Solar Grade Silicon LLC. John Hill has been appointed General Sales Manager. The plant currently employs 160.