Norway-based polysilicon supplier REC Silicon ASA has laid off approximately 30 employees at its Butte, Mont., plant and curtailed solar-grade polysilicon production at the facility.
According to a press release, the decision is part of efficiency improvement and cost-cutting initiatives at the plant and a re-alignment to focus on the semiconductor market. Furthermore, the company says it curtailed solar-grade polysilicon production in Butte due to restrictions on such materials from the ongoing solar trade dispute between the U.S. and China (which was initiated several years ago and is separate from the recently launched Section 201 trade case). Notably, REC Silicon cited similar solar market challenges when it cut about 70 jobs at its Moses Lake, Wash., plant in November and claimed the solar trade war between the U.S. and China continued to restrict REC Silicon’s access to polysilicon markets in China.
Going forward, the company says in its release, REC Silicon will better align the polysilicon production in Butte with semiconductor market demand by shifting the polysilicon production mix. Because of this change in polysilicon production, there will be less production and processing needs in Butte. Accordingly, a reduction in headcount of approximately 30 employees has been undertaken. (A local Montana Standard report suggests over 200 workers will remain at the Butte plant.)
Tore Torvund, REC Silicon’s CEO, comments in the release, “Becoming leaner will allow Butte to better compete in the semiconductor market, particularly at the current time, where excessive polysilicon inventories have not yet cleared. We expect that once those inventories do clear, semiconductor polysilicon demand will increase and Butte will be well-positioned in the future.”
Photo of the Butte, Mont., plant courtesy of REC Silicon’s website