REC Silicon: Leading Silicon Material Production from Moses Lake, Washington

Quietly situated in Moses Lake, Washington, is one of the world’s leading producers of silicon materials. REC Silicon produces Silane gas, most of which is used for the production of its polysilicon. Some Silane gas is sold into the merchant market. CleanTech Alliance had the pleasure of visiting REC Silicon last week and met with Chris Bowes, Director of Investor Relations & Global Sourcing, and Sharon Palmerton, Community Relations Manager.

Established in 1984, the Moses Lake Plant has endured several acquisitions and joint ventures to become REC Silicon and in 1998 they added a plant in Butte Montana. At each of their U.S. manufacturing facilities, REC Silicon produces solar grade polysilicon (Moses Lake) and electronic grade polysilicon and silicon gases (Butte). These products are raw materials for the international solar and electronic industries used in solar panels, smart devices, flat panel displays, laptops and even hybrid electric vehicles.

Recognized as a technology and low cost leader, REC Silicon is the world’s largest producer of Granular (NextSi™) polysilicon and Silane gas. In 2014, Moses Lake produced 22,000 MT of Silane gas and 16,300 MT of granular polysilicon, while the Butte facility produced nearly 7,000 MT of Silane gas and 3,600 MT of polysilicon.

Granular (NextSi™) polysilicon is used primarily for solar applications and is produced using their proprietary Fluid Bed Reactor technology (FBR). The FBR technology requires less than one tenth the energy of the traditional Siemens method per kilogram of polysilicon. The FBR process does not have a lot of the post processing steps required by the traditional Siemens technology, making it more energy efficient and less expensive than the 40-year-old Siemens technology.

In 2014, the company entered into a joint venture agreement with Shaanxi Non-Ferrous Tian Hong New Energy Co to build a polysilicon plant in Yulin, China. The new plant is expected to have capacity of 18,000 metric tons of granular polysilicon, an additional 1,000 metric tons of Siemens polysilicon, and 500 metric tons of silane gas loading. REC Silicon is also investigating the possible development of a FBR plant in Saudi Arabia.

REC Silicon is not just a leader in advancing materials and advancing technology but also in their community. The Moses Lake facility employs over 450 skilled workers and construction activity has commenced on a polysilicon expansion project. It  recently relocated its R&D lab from California to a state-of-the-art facility in Moses Lake.

REC Silicon has established itself as an “Employer of Choice” in the community, industry and region with supportive on-the-job training, opportunities to grow and move within the company, and extensive safety and operational training for all employees. It also strives to build partnerships with educational institutions, provide internships/mentoring opportunities and continuing education reimbursement.

Partnership projects, such as Solar Races and Energy Science Days, brings Moses Lake School District, Grant County PUD, Puget Sound Energy, Big Bend Community College, and REC Silicon together for a two-day, STEM-centered event involving nearly 1300 5th grade students county-wide. May 2015 will be its 9th year.  

The outlook is promising for REC Silicon as global solar installations continue to climb. Bloomberg New Energy Finance projected in October 2014 that by 2020 solar will generate 85 GW globally and by 2030 it will be up to 150 GW with most of the demand coming from Europe and Asia.

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