BUTTE — Citing the high cost of electricity, REC Silicon is closing down a portion of its operations here at its Butte plant, which will result in the layoff of some of its workforce.
“Our concern is for the employees, of course, for the business as well and what impact that’s going to be,” said Butte Chief Executive J.P. Gallagher.
The Moses Lake, Washington-based company announced it will phase out the polysilicon portion of the operations over the next six to nine months and will make unspecified workforce reductions.
The plant, which buys its energy on the open market, said high electricity costs were the main factor and reducing its operations. Butte Chief Executive J.P. Gallagher said the company told him about these concerns before.
“They buy energy from multiple different suppliers on the open market and they try to find the best price available. So, it’s very volatile and the price of energy has been extremely high,” said Gallagher.
NorthWestern Energy, which only transmits electricity to the plant, released this statement: "The announcement from REC Silicon is a blow for the state’s economy. The news of the loss of jobs is hard for the Butte community, but especially for the affected employees and their families."
REC Silicon employs about 235 people at the Butte plant and hasn’t yet announced the number of layoffs. The city will try to help those who lose their jobs find new employment.
“The employees that work out there are probably going to be highly marketable because we have a lot of different industries that say hey, we need workforce,” said Gallagher.
Gallagher added he is hopeful REC’s silicon gas production will continue to expand and retain workers at the Butte plant. The plant has been operating the Montana Connection industrial park south of Butte since 1996.
“We want them to be successful because they’ve been a great partner for our community,” he said.