Wacker construction continues: Despite Hemlock layoff, ‘Our plans are unchanged’
by DAVID DAVIS, Managing Editor
Mar 12, 2013 | 2976 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Miles of color-coded piping wait to be installed in the Wacker Polysilicon plant under construction in north Bradley County west of Charleston in this aerial photo provided by the company.
Miles of color-coded piping wait to be installed in the Wacker Polysilicon plant under construction in north Bradley County west of Charleston in this aerial photo provided by the company.
slideshow
Wacker Polysilicon is continuing toward the start of operations at its plant in Bradley County in mid-2015.

The company reported Monday it is aligning its staffing ramp-up to correspond with the startup of production.

“Our plans are unchanged, and we are moving forward with the development of our project in alignment with this timing,” site communications manager Amanda Plecas said in a press release.

The positive statement from Wacker comes at a time when Hemlock Semiconductor Corp. is permanently laying off 300 employees at a similar plant in Clarksville. Hemlock cited a supply gut and trade conflicts with China for its action.

Plecas said Wacker’s plans have not changed from its announcement in October 2012 that the local plant would begin production in 2015.

“We are not able to comment on the business plans of others,” she said when asked if Hemlock’s problems would affect Wacker’s decision.

Five structures measuring more than 200 feet tall traveled to the site in 2012 along Interstate 75 and now tower above the landscape.

“This is a very visible stride in our progress: the first major milestone of 2013. We are excited to see this equipment now in its permanent place,” said Dr. Martin Richtberg, vice president of engineering and head of the Wacker Polysilicon construction project.

“Last year we saw the final phase of concrete pouring, the arrival of large core equipment, the beginning of steel erection and the start of interior work,” Richtberg said. “We are proud of these accomplishments, of our project; and we look forward to the work ahead of us this year.”

Each structure plays a major role in Wacker’s production of hyperpure polycrystalline silicon. The equipment was designed to perform specific types of distillation to produce a product more than 99.999999999 percent pure.

“It generates great pride to see these incredible structures upright, establishing now the real look of our Charleston plant currently under construction,” Dr. Konrad Bachhuber, vice president and site manager for Wacker Polysilicon North America said.

Wacker announced in October 2012 it was delaying completion of its $1.8 billion plant by 18 months, to mid-2015.

Hemlock Semiconductor followed with its own announcement in early January that it would lay off 300 of 400 employees at its Clarksville polysilicon manufacturing plant and 100 more in Michigan. Hemlock had originally planned to start production of hyperpure polycrystalline silicon at its $1.2 billion facility later this year.

According to past news reports, Hemlock President Andrew Tometich said earlier this year its plant would be utilized, but added it’s not known whether it will open for business at any time in 2013.