REC Silicon planning to restart its plant in Moses Lake in 2022

REC Silicon’s silane and fluidized bed reactor polysilicon plant in Moses Lake, Washington with vehicle at night
REC Silicon’s mothballed silane and polysilicon production facilities in Moses Lake could restart operation in 2021 – Image: REC Silicon

REC Silicon has announced partnerships with two future customers of its mothballed (mono)silane and polysilicon production facilities in Moses Lake, Washington (USA). In its press release, the company leaves the concrete schedule for restarting the plant open.

Group14 Technologies, a start-up for silicon-carbon composite nanomaterials used in the anodes of lithium-ion batteries, is planning to break ground for a commercial production facility co-located with REC Silicon’s plant in 2021. The new facility will procure silane as a precursor from REC Silicon and is slated to reach an annual silicon-carbon composite capacity of 12,000 tons in 2023.

Group14 has received a $3.96 million grant for the project from the U.S. Department of Energy. The company is backed by the lithium-ion battery maker Amperex, specialty chemicals provider Cabot, lithium-ion anode materials producer Showa Denko, BASF Venture Capital and OVP Venture Partners.

REC Silicon’s second partner Violet Power is already building a solar cell and module production facility in Moses Lake across the street from REC Silicon’s shuttered plant. The product will be based on a low-cost, high-efficiency interdigitated back-contact (IBC) cell architecture from the International Solar Energy Research Center in Constance, Germany and aluminum-foil connecting technology from Arizona-based start-up Sunflex Solar.

Violet Power is planning to start production with a capacity of 500 MW in the second quarter of 2021, to reach a capacity of 1 GW by 2022 and to expand to 5 GW within five years. The company is led by founder Desari Strader, formerly Head of Government Affairs at SolarWorld, as Chairwoman and solar industry veteran Charlie Gay as CEO.

REC Silicon said that the two companies “will establish a silicon ingot and wafer solution for Violet Power’s immediate solar cell manufacturing requirements which, following the restart of the plant sited in Moses Lake, will utilize REC’s hyper-pure silicon feedstock materials.”

According to PV Tech, the “wafering operations will be in partnership with a Northern European wafer producer with direct connections with REC Silicon.” This might be NorSun, a Norwegian manufacturer of monocrystalline wafers with a capacity of 1 GW, or REC Silicon’s former affiliate REC Solar Norway, which restarted ingot production in Herøya, Norway in May 2020.

Violet Power intends to add in-house ingot and wafer production capacity “in time.” REC Silicon’s fluidized bed reactor plant for granular polysilicon in Moses Lake has an annual production capacity of 20,000 metric tons.

Update: In a conference call with investors and analysts on October 13, Francine Sullivan, Vice President Business Development at REC Silicon, said the company would be “working hard” to get the plant in Moses Lake up and running within the “next 18 to 24 months.” That would be in the second or third quarter of 2022.

In April 2019 REC Silicon still explained that the estimated time from a complete shutdown to first polysilicon production would be approx. nine months. Sullivan said the company would help Violet Power find an interim solution for polysilicon supply until REC Silicon ramps up.

Update 2: In an investor presentation issued by REC Silicon on October 14, NorSun is mentioned as “the major non-Chinese ingot and wafer producer” for a PV value chain with Violet Power.

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