The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, December 26, 2008

Dow Corning announces $1B expansion

By The Building Tradesman

HEMLOCK - Dow Corning's Hemlock Semiconductor Group announced Dec. 15 that it would invest up to $1 billion to expand polycrystalline production at its plant here, about 10 miles west of Saginaw. Construction will begin immediately.

Together with the announced construction of a new $1.2 billion plant in Clarksville, Tenn., the new capacity for Dow Corning will add up to 34,000 metric tons of polysilicon capacity, a key raw material used to manufacture solar cells and semiconductor devices.

Dow Corning said this is the third major expansion announced at the Michigan site in the last five years. In total, Hemlock Semiconductor Corp. has committed to invest as much as $2.5 billion at the site during this time frame. This latest expansion will add up to 13,000 metric tons of capacity to the site, while creating up to 300 permanent new jobs, as well as employing more than 800 construction workers during the construction. The Michigan expansion is expected to begin supplying polysilicon in 2011.

"This announcement offers solar industry leaders confidence that polysilicon supply will be available as the solar and electronics industries continue to grow and innovate," said Rick Doornbos, president and CEO of Hemlock Semiconductor Corp. "Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, as well as many key state legislators and local government officials worked hard to make Michigan an attractive location for another Hemlock Semiconductor Corp. expansion," said Doornbos. "Hemlock, Michigan, has been our home since our inception more than 40 years ago. It reflects the commitment of our talented employees and the support of the region that we're able to make another large investment at the site."

In the end, the split decision for Dow Corning to move production capacity out of Michigan was another blow that was softened by the company's continuing investment in its Hemlock operations.

Granholm has strongly pushed Michigan as a hub for alternative energy companies, like solar. "This is going to be the sector that is the economic driver of our nation, and Michigan is poised to be at the forefront," she said.

Dow corning said most of the polysilicon produced by the new facilities will be consumed by firms in the solar industry. However, both sites will have the capability to manufacture ultra-pure silicon for the electronics industry as well as solar-grade material. In solar applications, polycrystalline silicon is the cornerstone material used to produce solar cells that harvest renewable energy from sunlight.