AE Polysilicon plans to start construction of its Pennsylvania silicon plant this month after the Falls Township Board of Supervisors approved the project at its December meeting.

According to a video of the Dec. 16 meeting, which appeared on the Falls Township Web site this week, the board approved AE Polysilicon's plans in a 4-0 vote, with one board member abstaining.

Ed Murphy, a lawyer representing the AE Polysilicon project at the meeting, said the company hoped to break ground "in the next 30 days or so" -- putting the start date around Jan. 15 -- once it receives an air permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection and any other local permits it needs.

"We'd like to start earth-moving activities as quickly as possible," he said, "because the business plan anticipates an eight- to nine-month construction cycle and they'd like to have the facility up and operating, making product, before the end of 2008."

At a meeting in October, a different company representative said that AE Polysilicon planned to begin production in August (see Silicon Setback and Gunther Portfolio post, AE Polysilicon: Preliminary Plan Approved).

AE Polysilicon, based in Chatham, N.J., came out of stealth mode last year with a contract to supply Taiwanesesolar-cell manufacturer Motech Industries with up to 2,400 tons of silicon from 2008 to 2013.

The company said it plans to convert metallurgical-grade silicon into solar-grade silicon pellets in its facility at the Keystone Industrial Port Complex, the former site of the United States Steel Corp., at the October meeting.

Edgar Gunther, author of the Gunther Portfolio blog, wrote that the plans also call for AE Polysilicon to produce trichlorosilane on the site (see post here). The industry has a shortage of trichlorosilane, which is a silicon, hydrogen and chlorine compound from which high-grade silicon is often made.

AE Polysilicon plans to have the capacity to produce 1,500 metric tons of silicon per year in its first phase this year, then by 2010 ramp up to 12,000 tons annually. Today, that would make it the world's largest silicon plant.

At last month's meeting, a staff engineer at AE Polysilicon said the company expects that approximately 50 percent of its initial production will go to "one of the largest solar manufacturers in Taiwan," while the other 50 percent will be available to other solar manufacturers.

But some analysts have questioned whether AE Polysilicon will really have polysilicon to sell this year, considering that most projects have taken longer to build (see Silicon Setback).

If the company does break ground on time and complete the project in eight to nine months, that would put the completion date in September or October, giving the company only two months to produce silicon for the first year of its contract with Motech.

For more information, please also see Gunther Portfolio post AE Polysilicon: Final Plan Approved.