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Articles by Maddie Stone

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Part of Hemlock Semiconductor’s manufacturing facility

There are only four companies that manufacture polysilicon, a critical material for solar panels and semiconductors, in the United States. This spring, one of them got a big influx of cash. In April, a Korean company called Hanwha Solutions announced it had become the largest shareholder of REC Silicon, which can produce 16,000 metric tons of polysilicon annually from a refinery in Washington State—enough to meet more than a quarter of the U.S. solar industry’s demand. Hanwha, which already operates the largest U.S. solar panel factory in Georgia, described the acquisition as part of a plan to “revitalize the U.S. solar market” by creating a made-in-America supply chain from raw materials to finished products.

If that plan is successful, it would not only demonstrate the U.S. is, in fact, able to make solar panels with domestically sourced materials — a key policy goal of the Biden administration. It would also show that polysilicon refining, the most energy-intensive step in solar manufacturing, could be made considerably greener in the process.

In the pantheon of climate solutions, low-carbon polysilicon may not sound particularly sexy. But it has become a... Read more

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