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Wacker Opens New Polysilicon Plant

Business: New capacity comes on-line during difficult time for solar industry

by Michael McCoy
April 30, 2012

Credit: Wacker Chemie
A worker inspects a gas recovery unit at Wacker’s new plant.
Wacker Chemie polysilicon facility at Nunchrintz, Germany site, where worker inspects gas recovery unit in plant.
Credit: Wacker Chemie
A worker inspects a gas recovery unit at Wacker’s new plant.

Wacker Chemie has opened a $1.2 billion polysilicon facility at its Nünchritz, Germany, site. The company says the new capacity is coming on-line as demand picks up in the polysilicon industry after a poor fourth quarter of 2011.

The new plant adds 15,000 metric tons per year of capacity. By the end of 2012, Wacker says, the company’s total capacity for polysilicon will be around 52,000 metric tons, making it one of the world’s largest producers of the key photovoltaic cell components. The firm’s capacity will further rise to around 70,000 metric tons by 2014 with the opening of a new facility in Charleston, Tenn.

At an inauguration ceremony, Wacker CEO Rudolf Staudigl stated his bullishness on the solar industry despite a rocky end to 2011. Overcapacity and consolidation in the industry had a strong negative impact on the company’s business in the fourth quarter of last year, he said, but demand picked up “markedly” in the first few months of 2012.

Staudigl tried to cast the fall in polysilicon prices in a good light. “We are very optimistic about the outlook for photovoltaics because the significant price decline for polysilicon, wafers, cells, and modules strengthens photovoltaics’ competitiveness as an energy source,” he said.

Before-tax earnings in Wacker’s polysilicon business increased slightly in 2011, but they would have fallen if it weren’t for retained advanced payments from customers that left the solar business. Evergreen Solar, Q-cells, and Solon are three examples of solar energy companies that went bankrupt in recent years.


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