Erna Solberg re-opened Norway’s solar industry today, with Elkem Solar’s new factory at Herøya
"It is fantastic to be able to return and re-open this solar industry fairy tale. This is possible because Elkem Solar have made formidable efforts to improve the technology and production processes," said Prime Minister Erna Solberg to hundreds of jubilant employees, business representatives, politicians and public sector representatives.
Elkem Solar has turned silicon production upside down, ensuring the company’s competitiveness in a solar industry in which prices have fallen by 80% since 2011.
"We have dreamed of achieving this for eight years," said Helge Aasen, CEO of Elkem. "Solar power will be a key part of the renewable energy mix going forward, and new capacity is being established in the EU and USA. At Elkem we have 100 years of solid competence regarding silicon along with good framework conditions, and we regard each facility as a pilot because the technology changes so quickly."
Smart and green
"Competence regarding smart production processes is Norway’s way of ensuring competitiveness," said Erna Solberg. "Elkem’s technology brings us a step closer to a renewable society, and Elkem Solar is a good example of adopting smart technology and green industry, which Norway needs more of," said the Prime Minister.
Today, Elkem Solar produces silicon with a 75% reduction in energy consumption. Emissions of CO2 per produced tonne are far below those for similar production processes throughout the world.
Nothing else like it
Elkem Solar’s first production line was started up precisely as planned to the very hour, on 31 August at 19.45.
"It was a memorable day, taking out the first batch. We have a unique process – there is nothing else like it in the world," said Factory Manager Geir Ausland. "We have technology, equipment and methods that have been developed from scratch by our own employees. Silicon from here is doubly effective, and we have halved production costs twice."
The factory will produce 4,000 tonnes of silicon blocks annually on four production lines. The blocks will be sent to REC Solar’s factory in Singapore, which is part of the Elkem group, and to external customers. There, the silicon blocks will be used in the creation of solar panels that provide just under 1 GW of energy, equivalent to the consumption of around 100,000 properties.
Dependent upon innovation
Erna Solberg pointed out that the story of restructuring processes is that companies are dependent upon innovation and creativity.
ENOVA Director Nils Kristian Nakstad said that ENOVA are currently engaged in project number 25 with Elkem.
"It happens when brilliant employees hunt for new solutions, and when they have present management who engage in development. This provides solutions not only for use in Norway, but which can also be exported beyond our borders," emphasised Nils Kristian Nakstad.
Enova has invested NOK 72 million and Innovation Norway is also contributing so that Elkem Solar at Herøya will be able to test new furnace technology that may reduce the price of solar power in the long term.