(Bloomberg) — Xinjiang, the western Chinese region scrutinized by human rights activists, is being eyed for a massive new solar polysilicon plant that would extend its grip on the industry.
Xinjiang Jingnuo New Energy Industry Development Co. has submitted an environmental impact assessment seeking approval to build a 100,000-ton-a-year polysilicon plant in the city of Huyanghe, according to a post on the municipal government website.
Four factories in the region currently produce about half the world’s polysilicon, an ultra-conductive material used in solar panels to convert photons of light into electricity. The largest is Xinte Energy Co.’s 72,000-ton-a-year plant, which is currently being expanded.
Xinjiang offers some of the cheapest electricity in China, a draw for the power-hungry business of refining polysilicon. It’s also a lightning rod for international criticism over allegations of forced labor and human rights abuses against the ethnic Uyghur minority population.
Read more: A Xinjiang Solar Giant Breaks Ranks to Try and Woo the West
China has denied the claims, which have ensnared the polysilicon industry, and says they’re the work of foreign governments trying to undermine the nation’s successful industries.
Several companies have announced massive new polysilicon factories this year, as clean energy ambitions have caused demand to surge and prices to more than quadruple in the past year. Xinte has announced plans for a 200,000-ton-a-year facility in Inner Mongolia, while East Hope Group signed an agreement with officials in Ningxia to build a 250,000-ton-a-year plant.
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