MOSES LAKE -- REC Silicon celebrated on Mondaythe completion of a $1.7 billion expansion project.
REC Silicon is one of the world's largest producers of silicon materials used in making products including solar panels, hybrid vehicle electronics, MP3 players, flat-screen TVs, laptops and digital cameras.
REC's recent expansion creates a foundation for future economic prosperity in the state, said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday.
The right government policies and right private-sector innovations will help the U.S. "become the leader in the largest market opportunity of the 21st century -- clean energy."
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REC Silicon has invested significant money and time in developing the new Fluid Bed Reactor technology, which is helping lower the production cost of polysilicon, making solar energy a more affordable alternative.
"During difficult economic times, REC Silicon is growing," said Tore Torvund, president of REC Silicon. "We have added jobs to Central Washington and helped pioneer new technology that makes solar energy more affordable."
REC Silicon, already the largest private sector employer and taxpayer in Grant County, has added 355 local jobs since 2005 when expansion began and expects to create as many as 70 more jobs by the end of this year.
For every REC Silicon employee, almost three other Washingtonians also are employed.
The company used a $154 million grant from the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit program, which Senate Finance Committee member Cantwell helped create as part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
Cantwell also emphasized the importance of extending the Section 1603 Treasury Grant Program, created in ARRA and due to expire at the end of the year unless Congress acts.
The solar industry, a major purchaser of the polysilicon made in Moses Lake, may all but shut down without extension of the TGP, which has helped spur investments in renewables, she said.
Cantwell has introduced bipartisan, fully paid-for legislation that would extend the program for another two years.
According to a recent Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Report, the TGP program will create over 143,000 jobs by the end of the year and enable 4,250 megawatts of renewable power projects to come online.