SCHOTT and WACKER signed a related agreement today. Over the next years, the two partners plan to invest a total of 370 million euros in facilities in Jena (Thuringia) and Alzenau (Bavaria), creating at least 700 new jobs at these German sites. The project is subject to approval by the German and European authorities. The joint venture – SCHOTT WACKER Solar GmbH – is scheduled to start operations this year. It will produce multicrystalline silicon ingots and wafers, the starting material for solar cells. Solar-wafer production capacity is set to expand in stages, reaching about one gigawatt/year by 2012. This will make the joint venture one of the world’s five largest solar-wafer manufacturers.
Prof. Udo Ungeheuer, president & CEO of SCHOTT, stated that he was extremely pleased about the new joint venture. “Given polysilicon’s actual global scarcity, a reliable supply of this raw material is essential to SCHOTT Solar’s ambitious growth targets in the photovoltaic sector,” he explained. “Combined with our current capacity expansions for solar cells and modules in Alzenau and Valasské Mezirící in the Czech Republic, the joint venture will play a decisive role in strengthening SCHOTT Solar’s position as one of the world’s leading manufacturers of solar-energy components.”
Dr. Peter-Alexander Wacker, Wacker Chemie AG’s president & CEO, emphasized the joint venture’s importance for his company. “WACKER is the world's second-largest supplier of hyperpure polycrystalline silicon and a pioneer in the manufacture of solar-grade polysilicon. Our forward integration – with a strong partner – into solar-wafer production is vital to our strategy of creating corporate value in this growth sector. The recently announced expansions of our polysilicon production capacity to more than 22,000 metric tons per year ensure the joint venture’s starting material supply.”
WACKER will supply SCHOTT WACKER Solar GmbH with the hyperpure polycrystalline silicon it needs to produce wafers. The major part of the joint venture’s wafers will be used by SCHOTT Solar to make solar cells. Solar wafers, however, will also be sold to other solar-cell producers in order to capitalize on growth opportunities and related scale effects. To this end, SCHOTT and WACKER plan to establish a separate joint venture, WACKER SCHOTT Solar GmbH. SCHOTT and WACKER each will hold a 50 percent equity stake in the production joint venture SCHOTT WACKER Solar GmbH, while in the sales joint venture WACKER will hold 51 percent and SCHOTT 49 percent. The production joint venture includes SCHOTT's existing facilities in Alzenau for producing solar wafers and those in Jena for producing multicrystalline silicon ingots. SCHOTT WACKER Solar plans to expand the existing production and to set up new facilities for blocking and wafering.
At its SmartSolarFab® in Alzenau, SCHOTT manufactures wafers using its advanced EFG process (Edge defined Film-fed Growth). This method differs from the conventional approach where silicon wafers are sawn from an ingot. Instead, a silicon film in the form of an octagonal hollow tube is pulled directly from the silicon melt. A laser then cuts out the wafers. The EFG process delivers several advantages. It greatly reduces material loss, for example, and features a highly efficient use of silicon.