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REC Silicon still committed to 2023 reopening

by CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE
Staff Writer | February 21, 2022 1:05 AM

OSLO, Norway — Senior executives with embattled REC Silicon still hope to resume production in Moses Lake sometime in 2023, but admit that uncertainties over proposed legislation — including a tax-incentive authored by Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake — could change the timing of any restart.

Speaking during an online conference call late Thursday outlining the company’s quarterly earnings for the last three months of 2021, REC’s Vice President of Fluid Bed Reactor Sales Chuck Sutton said the derailing of President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” infrastructure bill, which contained measures to help promote U.S. solar power, will likely affect domestic demand for solar panels and the silicon they are made from.

“This uncertainty may delay the case for restarting Moses Lake,” Sutton said

Sutton also noted that REC continues to be flexible in order to look at reopening the plant in 2023.

“Our prime objective is to restart this facility, and we believe we can put the necessary building blocks in place and accomplish that,” said REC President and CEO James A. May II.

REC’s Moses Lake facility, which uses a patented technology called a “fluid bed reactor” to produce granular, solar-grade polysilicon in continuous batches, has been shut down since 2018. The closure followed a trade dispute that has prevented REC from exporting its product to China, which makes 90% of the world’s solar panels.

The company has been focused on developing customers in the United States, company representatives have said in the past. It is also courting potential solar panel producers and is currently working with Woodinville-based Group14 Technologies to supply silicon for a new type of rechargeable automobile battery.

Sutton, however, said a Warnick bill would provide tax incentives to solar panel producers located in Washington state. The bill is currently making its way through the state legislature but isn’t enough, by itself, to justify restarting production in Moses Lake.

“The bill is focused on providing incentives to grow that manufacturing base, and there's several folks that would like to build manufacturing around our facility,” Sutton said.

Until the measure passes, it is unlikely any solar manufacturers will move into Moses Lake or that REC will be able to resume production, Sutton added.

REC reported revenue of $43.2 million for the last three months of 2022 for a loss of $400,000 on sales of 750 metric tons of silicon gas and 481 metric tons of semiconductor grade polysilicon, both of which are made at the company’s Butte, Montana, facility.

May said REC has $110.5 million in cash on hand, thanks in large part to a major investment from South Korean chemical and solar producer Hanwha Solutions in late 2021. That amount, he said, is enough to restart Moses Lake when the opportunity arises.

In Friday trading, shares of REC Silicon traded on the Oslobørs — Norway’s stock exchange — closed at 14 Norwegian kroner ($1.56) per share, down from 14.66 Norwegian kroner ($1.63) per share the previous day.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.

REC Silicon basics

According to the company website, REC Silicon is:

• The largest maker and supplier of silane gas and other silicon gasses for the manufacture of semiconductors, flat panel displays and solar cell technologies.

• Among the world’s largest producers of polysilicon for the photovoltaic industry - used in solar energy generation.

• One of the largest makers of ultra-pure FZ polysilicon for electronics. FZ-based devices are used for hybrid and electric vehicles, wind energy, high voltage transmission and other technologies that benefit from high-performing electrical components.

SOURCE: REC Silicon

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