German manufacturer Wacker Chemie has announced the beginning of a $1bn (£705m) investment in Tennessee to build a plant to manufacture and use polysilicon.
The company has just spent $20m (£14m) to buy the land for the plant, and expects to start breaking ground on the facility as soon as possible. It says the plans will create 500 new jobs for the state when the plant opens in 2012.
"We expect polysilicon demand from the solar and semiconductor industries to further increase in coming years," explained Rudolf Staudigl, president of Wacker Chemie AG.
"Purchasing the land is an essential prerequisite to quickly build up additional production capacities outside the euro zone in line with the projected market trends and growth in demand."
The use of polysilicon was pioneered by the semiconductor industry, where it is used as a base material for growing single silicon crystals for processors and as a connecting material for complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor integrated circuits.
However, it is also widely used in the solar cell industry and demand is expected to grow strongly in the coming years, particularly as president Obama's investment in green technology is forthcoming.
This is the second polysilicon plant to be planned for the state. In December, Hemlock Semiconductor also announced plans for a polysilicon plant.
Both companies cited the low cost of power, and state guarantees over water rights, as influencing their decisions on plant location. The state is making a major play to bring hi-tech industries to the area, with a variety of financial incentives on offer.
"This announcement further enhances Tennessee's growing reputation as an innovation centre in the development and manufacture of clean energy technologies," said Tennessee governor Phil Bredesen.
"I appreciate Wacker's investment in Tennessee and its recognition of the productivity of Tennessee workers, and I am very pleased the company believes Tennessee is the best place to enhance its position in a growing economic sector."
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