German Firm Ramps up Solar Silicon Production

With silicon supplies in short demand worldwide, the solar industry should be pleased to hear that German chemical company Wacker intends to expand its polysilicon production by another 2,500 metric tons per year. Not only is worldwide demand for silicon, the principal ingredient for most solar panels, at record highs, but Germany’s booming solar industry is creating a powerful demand of its own. Recent studies have cited the worldwide silicon supply as a barrier to further price reductions of solar PV technology.

“The dynamically growing solar market is leading to notable bottlenecks for photovoltaics and electronics manufacturers,” Wacker Group CEO Peter-Alexander Wacker said. “Last year, the global solar-silicon market grew by over 50 percent and market experts forecast that demand growth will average 25 percent in the medium term. Thanks to our expansion activities, we are well prepared for the continued run on solar silicon.” Together with last year’s expansion activities already underway, Wacker’s annual production capacity will grow from the present 5,000 metric tons of polysilicon to up to 9,000 metric tons from 2007. The company will invest some EUR 200 million in this expansion and expects to create around 100 new jobs at its Burghausen site as a result. Ewald Schindlbeck, President of the Wacker’s polysilicon division, said they are already the second-largest global producer of polysilicon for the electronics and solar industries, even before factoring in this expansion. Wacker uses a process based on the fluidized-bed technique – in which trichlorosilane is the raw material – an industrial-scale process is being tested using two pilot reactors. The company said granular silicon is ideal for continuous crystallization processes.
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