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German Silicon Maker Chooses Tennessee for New Factory

CLEVELAND, Tennessee, February 26, 2009 (ENS) – Tennessee officials and executives of the world’s second largest producer of hyperpure polycrystalline silicon today announced that the German company will build a $1 billion facility in Tennessee. Polycrystalline silicon is a primary component used in the manufacture of solar panels and semiconductors.

Wacker Chemie AG of Munich, Germany paid about $20 million for a 550-acre site near the Hiwassee Industrial Park in the Bradley County town of Charleston for the new factory.

The project is expected to create about 500 new green collar jobs in the region.

“This announcement further enhances Tennessee’s growing reputation as an innovation center in the development and manufacture of clean energy technologies,” said Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen today.

“I appreciate Wacker Chemie’s investment in Tennessee and its recognition of the productivity of Tennessee workers, and I’m very pleased the company believes this is the best place to enhance its position in this growing economic sector,” the governor said.

“We expect polysilicon demand from the solar and semiconductor industries to further increase in the coming years,” said Dr. Rudolph Staudigl, president and CEO of Wacker Chemie. “Purchasing this site is an essential prerequisite to quickly build up additional production capacities outside the euro zone in line with projected market trends and growth in demand.”

Polycrystalline silicon solar module converts sunlight into electricity. (Photo courtesy Wacker Chemie AG)

The U.S. solar industry is set to expand, but a shortage of polycrystalline silicon has been hampering growth, even as governments increase tax incentives to homeowners and businesses who install solar systems.

Wacker Chemie’s choice of Tennessee for the new factory was influenced by the state’s strong business climate, Tennessee’s well-developed infrastructure and the cooperative partnership of state agencies, local government, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the local chamber of commerce, Wacker officials said.

The partnership between the state of Tennessee and TVA will allow the company to take advantage of industrial electricity rates approximately half those found in Germany.

In addition, the “over-the-fence supply of chlorine from the adjacent OLIN Corporation facility and excellent transportation infrastructure made this an attractive site location,” the company said in a statement today.

Wacker will qualify for statutory incentives on the state and local level, including the FastTrack Infrastructure Development Program, the FastTrack Job Training Assistance Program, and the Super Jobs Tax Credit.

“We are fully committed to sustainable development – a key component of our thinking and actions,” the company says on its website. “We attach equal importance to economical, ecological and social factors.”

“Under Governor Bredesen’s leadership, we’ve developed a strategy for the creation of green collar jobs in Tennessee,” said Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber. “That strategy has resulted in more than $2.5 billion dollars in capital investment and over a thousand new jobs being announced in the past year and we truly believe Tennessee is well-positioned for the growth of a sustainable economy in the U.S.”

There is vast potential for solar energy development across the southeastern United States, Solar Energy Industries Association president and chief executive Rhone Resch said today from his office in Washington, DC.

“The United States has some of the best solar resources in the world – resources that are more than double that of Germany, the current world leader in solar. With the right policies, solar can play a significant role in creating jobs, growing local economies and cutting energy costs for consumers and businesses,” said Resch.

Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina have solar resources 60 percent better than Germany, said Resch.

“Those who claim the U.S. does not have enough Sun to power our nation are simply wrong,” he said. “In Georgia, 23.6 percent of electricity could come from rooftop solar alone.”

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