Solar, Utility Integration

U.S. Silicon Manufacturer to Change Hands

The booming solar photovoltaic industry means one thing for companies who provide the raw materials: a solid, and growing business opportunity. Japan-based Komatsu is taking advantage of this fertile atmosphere to fetch top value for the sale of their 75 percent interest in their U.S. subsidiary Advanced Silicon Materials (ASiMI) which manufactures silicon for the solar market.

Renewable Energy Corporation AS (REC), a Norwegian company, has agreed to purchase the majority interest in order to boost their current solar endeavors. AsiMI, whose facilities are located in Butte, Montana, manufactures and sells polycrystalline silicon principally for semiconductor applications and silane gas principally for semiconductor and LCD applications. Komatsu said they decided to sell their 75 percent equity ownership in AsiMI in light of the increase in the subsidiary’s increased value resulting from current strong demand for silane gas and market conditions for polycrystalline silicon. In September 2002, ASiMI contributed its plant in Moses Lake, Washington to establish Solar Grade Silicon (SGS), a joint venture with REC. SGS manufactures and sells polycrystalline silicon exclusively for PV applications. ASiMI currently owns 30 percent of SGS, while the remaining 70 percent is held by REC. REC is a vertically integrated solar energy company with its main focus on silicon feedstock and wafers through its subsidiaries SGS and ScanWafer AS. REC is today the only PV company in the world that manufactures its own silicon feedstock for processing into wafers, according to the company. Post-acquisition, REC said they intend to continue to operate ASiMI’s silane gas business as it is operated today, while ASiMI’s polycrystalline silicon business gradually will be shifted from electronic applications to PV applications. “REC views the purchase of ASiMI as an excellent opportunity to strengthen its position in the rapidly growing solar PV industry,” said the company in a statement. “The PV market is feedstock and wafer limited, therefore REC is uniquely positioned for further growth and cost reductions.” The deal is expected to be final by April of 2005 assuming no regulatory hurdles. Once finalized, REC said the deal would make them the world’s largest PV wafer manufacturer in 2005.