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Dow Corning to Make Major Investment into Solar Technology

Source:, Dec 18, 2008

Dow Corning Corporation announced today several billion dollars of investment to provide critical materials to the fast-growing solar technology industry. “Dow Corning and our Hemlock Semiconductor joint ventures hope to create a viable solar industry that produces new, high paying jobs, clean power technologies and a revitalized economy,” said Stephanie A. Burns, Dow Corning’s chairman, president and CEO. “We’re committing our resources, know-how and technology because we are confident that solar technology represents a tremendous opportunity for both clean energy and economic growth.”

Dow Corning will begin manufacturing high purity monosilane, a key specialty gas used to manufacture thin-film solar cells and liquid crystal displays (LCDs). This investment includes construction of a new monosilane manufacturing facility in Hemlock, Michigan, adjacent to Hemlock Semiconductor Corporation’s polysilicon manufacturing site.

“This significant investment to become a leading supplier of monosilane for thin film solar technology will expand our feedstock offering and will further reinforce our position as a value-added material supplier to the solar industry,” said Eric Peeters, global executive director, of Dow Corning Solar Solutions.

The investment also includes up to $3.0 billion at Dow Corning joint ventures Hemlock Semiconductor Corporation and Hemlock Semiconductor LLC. The companies will expand Hemlock Semiconductor Corporation’s existing Michigan manufacturing facility and build a new site in Clarksville, Tennessee to increase manufacturing capacity for polycrystalline silicon (polysilicon) – the cornerstone material used to manufacture most solar cells.  Construction of both the polysilicon expansions and the new monosilane site will begin immediately.

These announcements solidify Dow Corning’s significant role in the development of the two most common types of solar cells; crystalline-based and thin-film solar cells. Crystalline-based solar cells use sliced polysilicon as its main semi-conducting material. Thin-film solar cells are made by depositing a thin film of silicon, enabled by monosilane, onto a sheet of another material such as glass.

“The opportunity and need for solar energy is so great, there will be a need for many solar technologies to flourish to meet global demand,” said Peeters. “Dow Corning intends to offer options across the entire array of solar technologies, allowing our customers to innovate freely.”

Other recent solar-related announcements by Dow Corning include:

In September 2008, Dow Corning introduced a manufacturing process featuring new developmental silicone materials – Dow Corning® PV-6100 Encapsulant series – that significantly increases the production rate of solar panels, effectively lowering the cost per watt of solar power.

In June 2008, Hemlock Semiconductor Corporation announced the start-up of 9,000 metric tons of capacity at its newest polysilicon facility located at the company’s Hemlock site. That expansion was part of a $500 million phased investment announced in 2005 and 2006. Hemlock Semiconductor Corporation’s annual capacity will be approximately 19,000 metric tons by the end of 2008, and the Hemlock Semiconductor group plans to bring up to 10,000 metric tons of capacity online each year until the completion of these announced expansions.

In May 2008, Dow Corning opened its Solar Solutions Application Center in Freeland, Michigan (U.S.), to enable collaboration with customers to develop, evaluate and pilot materials solutions used to manufacture solar panels. The $3 million, 27,000-square foot, state-of-the-art facility represents Dow Corning’s intention to be an active, eager partner with researchers, producers and governments as we help develop affordable and efficient solar energy for the global energy market.

In 2007, Dow Corning’s joint venture, Hemlock Semiconductor Corporation announced the largest expansion in the history of the polycrystalline silicon industry – $1 billion over the next four years to increase its polycrystalline silicon capacity by 90 percent.

In 2006, Dow Corning introduced PV 1101 Solar Grade Silicon—the first commercially available metallurgical feedstock produced using large-scale manufacturing processes—which can be blended with polysilicon to offer options to solar industry innovators.