Hoku picks Pocatello for polysilicon plant
The Kapolei-based company names the town for its $220 million solar plant in Idaho
Hoku Scientific Inc. said yesterday that it has chosen Pocatello, a small town in southeast Idaho, as the home for its planned $220 million polysilicon production plant.
The Kapolei-based fuel-cell technology developer said in August that it had chosen Idaho over Singapore as the place to embark on its new venture into alternative energy. Among the three site contenders were Pocatello, Treasure Valley and Magic Valley, all near Idaho's Snake River.
The city of Pocatello announced it has set aside 450 acres of vacant land near its airport for Hoku's facilities and future expansion plans. The state of Idaho also offered $1.2 million in workforce training funds to the company, according to a state press release, and $200,000 to the city of Pocatello to offset the related public facility costs.
The new plant, which would have the capacity to produce 3.3 million pounds of polysilicon per year for solar panels, is expected to bring 200 new jobs.
Hoku has said the plant would generate nearly $100 million annually in revenue based on current market prices for polysilicon.
Dustin Shindo, chairman, president and CEO of Hoku, said the company picked Pocatello "due to its pro-business environment, highly skilled labor force and ability to meet the operation needs of a growing company such as ours."
Pocatello, with a population of about 52,000, is also home to Idaho State University.
Shindo also cited Pocatello's its rail access and supply of flat land in making the site selection.
If the city of Pocatello were to create a foreign trade zone at the site -- an option it is seeking -- the company also would be relieved of certain tariffs on international trade.
Hoku Scientific expects to begin construction on the plant sometime this year, with the plant to be operational in late 2008.
The company has a contract with CH2M Hill Lockwood Greene for engineering and other services for the plant.
Support from the Pocatello mayor, as well as the Bannock Development Corp., a nonprofit group tasked with diversifying the economy of Pocatello, may have persuaded Hoku.
Pocatello Mayor Roger Chase said: "This is a tremendous opportunity for Pocatello. Not only have we brought a company to Pocatello that will be a major employer, but the spin-off potential could have an even greater impact for our community."
Roger B. Madsen, Idaho Commerce & Labor director, said Hoku's advancements in fuel-cell technology hold potential for partnerships with the Idaho National Lab.
Hoku, founded as a developer of fuel-cell technology, went public in August 2005. It has since shifted its emphasis toward polysilicon and solar modules.