In Search of RSI Silicon

[Easton, Pennsylvania USA]

Not in Solar Grade Silicon production yet?

RSISiliconlogo Before the Thanksgiving Day Holiday, my co-investigator and I took a not so quick field trip to RSI Silicon Products, LLC, located in Forks Township, Northampton County, Pennsylvania. Our goal was to assess RSI Silicon’s progress in commercializing their Solar Grade Silicon production process described in “RSI Silicon: Solar Grade Silicon from Pennsylvania (then Alabama)”.

Given the Environmental disclosure regarding the “installation of two electric arc furnaces and associated air cleaning devices (fabric collectors)” uncovered in RSI Silicon: Solar Grade Silicon Reprise (or at legacy blogspot), I was looking for the two arc furnaces or progress on their construction. On their website, RSI’s Current Status is unchanged since my last post and states:

It is envisaged that production at the 1,000 metric tonne per annum plant based in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, will commence Q3 2008.

So, almost two months into Q4 2008, RSI Silicon should be in production, right?

Below is a Picasa slideshow with my photos of the RSI Silicon plant along with a short YouTube video conveying the same basic information. Having seen large arc furnaces in operation during my plant tour at the TDR – Metalurgija facility in Ruše, Slovenia, I was underwhelmed. However, I was able to obtain comments from a few industry experts based in my reconnaissance photos.

While I thought the cylinders in the background were significant, it turns out these are raw material bins. Based on the size of the dust collectors, cooling towers, and raw material bins, one expert estimated two small arc furnaces, each with a 500 kW (kiloWatt) maximum capacity, could be inside the RSI Silicon building.

So why do I believe RSI Silicon is not in production yet? It is really just an impression from the lack of industrious activity at the site. Low key maintenance was underway behind the dust collectors. There was no truck traffic on the receiving side of the building. Perhaps the number of cars in the parking lot seemed insufficient as well?

I tried to get an official update or quote on RSI Silicon’s production status from a company representative, but, as before, there was little interest in cooperation beyond obtuse dialog. In my mind, RSI Silicon should be among “Greentech’s Top Eight Paranoid Companies” by Michael Kanellos at Greentech Media.

And, in an ironic twist, Mr. Kanellos missed RSI Silicon among the Quercus Trust investments in “The Secret Life of the Quercus Trust”. Per the Investors page of the RSI Silicon website:

David Gelbaum, Trustee of Quercus Trust has provided the initial funding for the Company. Quercus has given more money to conservation causes in California than anyone else helping to protect 1,179 square miles of Desert and Mountain Lanscapes as well as donating $100 million to the Sierra Club. RSI’s ability to produce cost effective solar grade silicon and assist the PV industry in becoming an economical energy alternative is the primary reason for David’s investment and support.

RSI Silicon shares the sign frugality trait of Nanosolar. My co-investigator observed a single light blue sheet of letter paper at the office entrance with RSI Silicon Products (or Production?) printed on it in black ink. But at least there was a sign.

4 comments

  1. Peter says:

    Thanks for the continued updates on RSI Silicon.

  2. H. Bruce Li says:

    Keep up the good work!

    RSI’s website updated as: 500 ton plant is under construction in PA to be completed Q1 2009. How much you believe on that?

    Based on enthalpy of formation on carbothermic reduction od silicon dioxide, 8 kWh per Kg is a good number to estimate the capacity of two 500 kW small arc furnace in your article herein, that is, approximately 60 Kg per hour per furnace. This is very close toyour estimation of 900 tons per year. H. Bruce Li

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