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Solargise has big plans for former Hoku site

Solargise is expected to close its deal with the Pocatello Development Authority early next week. The $1.2 million sale is bringing hope to a place that many thought had seen its final days.

“So this particular plant, right, produces poly of 11N purity … so it’s suitable for not only semiconductors but solar as well,” Solargise chairman Raj Basu explained.

For Basu and other members of Solargise America, the former Hoku site offered them possibilities that they couldn’t find elsewhere. Things like the high-grade polysilicon process that is already in place and the amount of space for expansion made the decision easy.

“This plant can be part of a fully integrated facility and not just a standalone polysilicon plant,” Basu said. “So that one was one the key things that attracted us over here.”

The plan is to produce wafers for semiconductors and ingots for solar cells, with each and every step of the process done on-site.

“So you have the full value chain for semiconductors on one site.”

Using the sand-to-power process, Solargise will have everything they need for the wafers in one spot and be able to use the ingots produced in Pocatello to complete the solar panels they’re building in Canada.

“Converting quartzite, which is a kind of sand, into UMGSI … which is a feedstock for our polysilicon plant,” he said.

But before any of this can happen, between 12-16 months of work will have to be done to refurbish the machinery and get things back in working order, with many pieces still sitting the way they were when Hoku was there.

“Yeah, this is how we found it. This is how it was when we bought it,” Basu said.

In addition to adding new technology, the group will also need to replace the 30 to 40 percent of machinery that was auctioned off by the previous owner.

Looking ahead, Basu sees companies like ON Semiconductor as potential customers with his robust business model.

“You have other semiconductor companies over here that need the materials we’re going to be producing,” Basu said.

“So we could actually make Idaho a hub for semiconductors. But not just one part of the product, the entire value chain, from the ground up.”

Basu said that he expects to be running the plant’s first trials sometime near the end of next year.

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