REC Silicon and new U.S. solar cell company Violet Power end partnership before it even begins

In a press release, Norwegian silicon material producer REC Silicon said that the strategic partnership announced last year between REC and Violet Power, a solar cell startup company, has been terminated.

REC, which holds a dormant silicon production facility in Moses Lake, Washington, was set to supply polysilicon to new U.S. solar cell and panel manufacturing venture Violet Power, which was setting up a 1-GW production facility across the street from REC. Local news agencies have since reported that Violet Power decided to build a brand-new factory, still in Moses Lake, but not near REC.

In the press release, REC states that because of positive political momentum, there is now a better opportunity for localized value chains, and “REC believes it yields greater positive outcomes for its shareholders to collaborate commercially with established, proven, active and relevant solar supply chain partners to optimize the market opportunity for competitive, low-carbon locally produced solar panels.”

REC shut down the Washington silicon facility in 2018, due to the on-going trade dispute between China and the United States, which had essentially restricted REC’s access to the critical Chinese silicon market since 2014. Now it appears the company believes trade may open up again, and it would rather partner with established solar companies — not startup Violet Power.

Violet Power founder Desari Strader told the Columbia Basin Herald that her company was the one to end the REC partnership because REC was unreliable, as it was still not producing polysilicon at the Moses Lake facility. Violet Power is still invested in the local community and will continue to site its factory there.

When Solar Power World talked to Violet Power’s CEO Charlie Gay in October 2020, he said the plan was to have 500 MW of crystalline silicon solar cell manufacturing capacity by Q2 2021 with another 500 MW of full panel production by the end of 2021. The plan was to eventually scale to 5 GW of production and 1,000 manufacturing employees. Without a completed factory, it is unlikely those milestones will be met in 2021.

REC Silicon, meanwhile, is a founding member of the Ultra Low Carbon Solar Alliance, a group working to build greater market awareness around solar supply chain decarbonization. Including other silicon producers, First Solar and Q CELLS, the Ultra Low Carbon Solar Alliance is setting a campaign against Chinese solar production efforts, especially mammoth producers that use coal-powered electricity.