Alexander: Opening of Wacker in Bradley County is “A Significant Step for Tennessee Manufacturing”

Posted on April 18, 2016

Says solar makes up about one percent of nation’s electricity but accounted for 26 percent of new capacity in 2015

CHARLESTON, Tenn., April 18, 2016 – U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today joined Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Gov. Bill Haslam to applaud Wacker Chemical Corporation on the opening of its facility in Charleston, Tenn.

“A year ago, this was one of the country’s largest construction sites—today, it’s one of the nation’s most impressive plants. This is a significant step for Tennessee manufacturing, when skilled Tennessee workers are being relied upon to manufacture some of the world’s purest silicon to furnish solar panels that will help ensure plenty of clean energy in the future,” Alexander said.  

The plant will produce 20,000 metric tons of hyperpure polysilicon, which is a key ingredient in manufacturing affordable solar panels.

“Solar energy produces about one percent of the electricity our country consumes, but it is growing fast. In 2015, solar energy accounted for 26 percent of the new installed capacity in the United States,” Alexander said. "Over the last 10 years, the cost to install solar panels in the United States has dropped nearly 75 percent. This new facility can help meet the demands of the growing solar sector while bringing valuable jobs to Tennessee."

The facility will employ 650 workers and has the ability to add more capacity quickly.

Alexander also praised the Wacker Institute, an apprenticeship program the company runs in cooperation with Chattanooga State Community College. 

“Wacker provided $3 million to the Chattanooga State Community College to construct a new chemical training plant, which has already produced some of the best chemical engineering technicians in Southeast Tennessee. Students are able not only to earn money while in the apprenticeship, but thanks to Tennessee Promise, those straight out of high school can attend the program for free,” Alexander said. 

Wacker Chemie AG, a Munich-based company, announced in 2009 it purchased 550 acres in Bradley County to build the Charleston facility. The company’s president and CEO, Dr. Rudolf Staudigl, cited Tennessee’s superior transportation and water infrastructure, abundant and accessible energy sources, and availability of a highly-skilled workforce as reasons for choosing the Bradley County site.

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