CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Hemlock Semiconductor Corp. and Tennessee officials on Thursday broke ground on a $1.2 billion plant and renamed the road leading to the sprawling facility "Solar Way."
The plant will produce polysilicon, a raw material used to make solar cells and semiconductor devices.
Before remarks at a groundbreaking ceremony, Gov. Phil Bredesen noted that the sun was shining into the faces of people gathered in the audience and said: "It's very appropriate, because that is the future up there."
The plant is scheduled to be completed in 2012 and create more than 800 construction jobs and is expected to have about 500 full-time employees when complete.
Bredesen said the decision by Hemlock to build the plant in Tennessee has laid the groundwork for the solar industry in the state.
"This is part of what helped to get it all started," he said. "It takes that next step to position us as a real leader in the solar industry."
Michigan-based Hemlock Semiconductor is a joint venture between Dow Corning Corp. and two Japanese companies, Shin-Etsu Handotai Co. and Mitsubishi Materials Corp.
Dow Corning head Stephanie Burns used the occasion to urge Congress to pursue policies to make solar power more cost-effective and to develop national standards to avoid conflicting codes and transmission systems.
"We want to make it so all of you can put solar panels on your homes in an affordable way," she said.
Hemlock's decision to build in Clarksville was followed by the announcement that Munich, Germany-based Wacker Chemie AG would build a $1 billion polysilicon pant in Bradley County.
Bredesen has also designated $62 million in federal stimulus money to establish a solar research center at the University of Tennessee and a 5-megawatt solar power generation plant in Haywood County.
Bredesen said the solar industry "is going to be a very important part of our economic future, and this is one of the foundation stones."
The governor said he expects the Hemlock plant will attract related investments, just as Volkswagen plant being built in Chattanooga will.
"We see this is as an anchor," he said.