REC Silicon considers expansion

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REC Silicon's Plant 4 in Moses Lake. The company received approval to become a subzone of the Port of Moses Lake's foreign trade zone, eliminating tariffs and fees for importing and exporting.

MOSES LAKE - REC Silicon is awaiting news on its request for a power sales contract from Grant County PUD to start another Moses Lake expansion.

"To continue to be an important player in this market, we have to grow and grow fast," said REC Silicon President Tore Torvund, on Thursday.

The company makes solar grade polysilicon, electronic grade polysilicon and silane gas at its Moses Lake and Butte, Mont., plants.

Polysilicon is a key ingredient in making solar panels and is part of MP3 players, flat screen TVs and hybrid electric vehicles.

The company employs about 550 people in Moses Lake, according to its website.

Torvund spoke before a group of 103 business people at the Grant County Economic Development Council's luncheon.

Moses Lake has a "very competent workforce," he said.

"We think this would be a very competitive investment," Torvund said.

No decisions have been made as the company is waiting for news on its request from the PUD for a power sales contract.

A decision is expected in October.

A contract would formalize what services the company is receiving from the PUD and the contract "provides for REC Silicon paying its fair share of new resources if the Priest Rapids Project power is exhausted," he said.

The contract is one of several issues that has to be solved, he said.

The Grant PUD Board of Commissioners authorized Tim Culbertson, the district's general manger, to continue discussions and the drafting of a contract with REC Silicon, Culbertson told the Columbia Basin Herald.

The district's attorney, power sales manager and Culbertson are making modifications to the draft and sending it back to the company, Culbertson explained.

If a contract is agreed upon, the PUD would make a contract available to any industrial customer, he said.

The PUD has to make sure it does not discriminate, he said.

Last year, PUD representatives met with industrial customers about the project power supply and taking a "pro-rata hit" to protect rates for residential and irrigation customers, he explained.

He said REC Silicon's contract, if approved, would not guarantee a price. Rather, it would formalize services received from the PUD.

The company is part of an PUD industrial customer class which also includes Eka Chemical, Chemi-Con Corporation, Microsoft and Yahoo!

BMW/SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers is in the same class once operations begin.

Torvund also talked about the solar's role in the energy market.

The main market for solar panels is Germany because the country has a policy in place where 20 percent of all energy should be in renewables by 2020.

In the U.S., that figure is almost nothing.

There is a need in the U.S. for a political decision on how energy should be developed, he said.

"Solar is an important part of that mix," he commented.

China is heavily investing in the industry and is a very tough competitor going forward, he said.

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