Silicor Materials is a global leader in the production of solar silicon. The company is headquartered San Jose, California with a Research and Development team located in Berlin, Germany.
The organization was founded as a development company in 2006 under the name Calisolar, with the goal of manufacturing low-cost photovoltaic (PV) solar cells from silicon designed specifically for the solar industry (“solar silicon”) rather than electronic-grade polysilicon. Among the company's founding members is solar energy pioneer Dr. Eicke Weber, Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE.
Supported by venture financing from Hudson Clean Energy Partners, LP, Advanced Technology Ventures and Globespan Capital Partners, the company built its management and engineering teams; in 2009, construction was completed on a 60 MW PV cell production facility, consisting of a vertically integrated ingot, wafer and cell manufacturing line in Sunnyvale, California.
In 2010, Silicor acquired its primary upstream solar silicon supplier, 6N Silicon (“6N”), based in Vaughan, Ontario, Canada. The acquisition enabled the company to secure access to a single, reliable solar silicon feedstock for its cell and wafer processing and further improve its cost position by eliminating the profit margin on purchased solar silicon.
Nearly 700MT of solar silicon was manufactured in 6N’s Vaughan facility through 2012 – roughly half of this material was sold and shipped global to solar wafer, cell and module customers, while the balance was used to produce more than 20 million PV cells on Calisolar’s manufacturing line in California. These cells are currently in operation in solar modules around the world.
In 2012, having proven the viability of its solar silicon to manufacture PV cells with performance equivalent to those made with electronic grade polysilicon, the company divested its California PV cell manufacturing line and officially changed its name to Silicor Materials. Today, the company focuses exclusively on delivering the PV industry’s highest quality solar silicon that could help improve margins for global cell and module manufacturers.
In 2012, Silicor selected Lowndes County, Mississippi as the location of its first large-scale solar silicon manufacturing plant. Unfortunately, it was also during this time that a global solar industry trade battle began to escalate, with the U.S. and EU ultimately imposing hefty tariffs on cells and/or modules exported from China. When Chinese regulators in turn announced they would review silicon imports from the U.S., South Korea and EU, it became clear that the resulting tariffs could seriously impact Silicor’s ability to provide its material to the world’s largest region for solar manufacturing. In light of this significant risk, Silicor made the difficult decision to withdraw its plans for the Mississippi facility and explore alternative sites outside the U.S. This decision proved to be in the best interests of all involved – in September 2013, the Chinese government issued provisional tariffs on silicon imparts from the U.S., ranging from 53.7% to 59.5%. Silicor remains hopeful that this dispute will one day see resolution, allowing the company to site a future plant in the U.S.
In July 2014, Silicor announced the selection of a location in Iceland for its next facility, with a nameplate capacity of 16,000MT. Silicor expects to begin production at this facility in 2018, will full production in 2019.
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