Indian company buys failed Hoku plant in Pocatello

The Hoku plant in 2013.
The Hoku plant in 2013.

Polysilicon might yet be manufactured at the now-defunct Hoku plant in Pocatello. Or the $700 million plant could be cleared for an industrial park.

VA Metals LLP, of Bangalore, India, bought the plant’s assets last month after months of negotiations with its previous owner, JH Kelly, a Longview, Wash., contractor.

VA Metals also paid the Pocatello Development Authority, which owns the 67-acre site, the $20,000 first-year lease payment on a two-year lease, said Michael Orr, a Pocatello city councilman and former authority member. The lease requires that before the lease expires, VA Metals must either get the plant into production or clear the property and establish an industrial park.

“Within a year, we should know what will happen,” Orr said. “Things are looking up.”

The purchase price was unavailable.

Hoku was a Honolulu-based unit of China’s Tianwei New Energy Holdings. The company broke ground on the plant with great fanfare in 2007, sparking community dreams of a high-tech future. The plant was to make polysilicon for solar panels. The property was leased to Hoku for $1 per year for 99 years.

The plant was not finished and never operated. Hoku and all its subsidiaries filed for Chapter 7, or liquidation, bankruptcy in 2013, reporting about $1 billion in debts.

Kelly, which helped build it and was a creditor in the bankruptcy, bought the plant for $8.3 million and began repaying 104 subcontractors. Kelly last year began to sell pieces of the plant — including transformers, reactor vessels and huge electric motors — to recoup its losses.

The Idaho Statesman and The New York Times contributed.