Confluence plant puts TN in solar spotlight

Confluence Solar’s decision to build a $200M manufacturing plant in Tennessee is the third major solar power manufacturing investment in the state, and puts it in the forefront of the burgeoning silicon-based solar power industry.

by Hugh G. Willett, contributing editor

Janaury 28, 2009 – The announcement last week that Confluence Solar would be building a $200 million manufacturing plant in Clinton, TN, puts the state in the forefront of the burgeoning silicon-based solar power industry.

Confluence, based in Hazelwood, MO, represents the third major solar power manufacturing investment in Tennessee. Hemlock Semiconductor near Nashville and Wacker Chemie AG near Chattanooga have already announced solar manufacturing operations.

“Two years ago we set upon a strategy to make Tennessee a significant player in the solar industry,” Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen announced in Nashville today.

“Since then, we’ve seen more than two billion dollars in capital investment, more than 1000 jobs created,” Bredesen said. “With the development of the Solar Farm and existing solar companies located in West Tennessee, we have truly created a statewide solar footprint.”

The budding solar infrastructure in Tennessee was among a number factors, including the Oak Ridge National Lab and the Solar Institute at University of Tennessee, that favored Clinton in the site selection process, confirmed Jim Highfill, chief operating officer at Confluence.

Both Wacker and Hemlock will be supplying Confluence with polysilicon ingots, which will be used to create monosilicon ingots, he said.

Clinton was picked as the location for the new plant after a rigorous site selection process that started out with about 45 locations in at least four states, Highfill said.

The 200,000 square foot manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution facility to be located on 25-acres in the Clinton I-75 Industrial Park will create about 250 jobs. Groundbreaking could begin by the second quarter and the building could be completed with 9-12 months; it could take another year to bring the plant into full operation, depending on the market conditions.

About 120 employees will be hired in the first phase, required to take three to five months training at the company’s headquarters in Missouri. Another 120 or more employees could be hired as the plant ramps up. Most employees would have to have at least a high school education, preferably one or two years of college, Highfill said.

Confluence Solar was founded in 2007 to bring to market low-cost, high-quality single-crystal silicon as a platform for high-efficiency cell design to solar cell manufacturers. Company founder John DeLuca began his career in nuclear materials at Oak Ridge National Lab, with more than 25 years experienced in silicon research including granular polysilicon, CZ batch, and continuous CZ alternative silicon crystal growth methods.
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