Alice Barrett has logged in at 2023-12-28 16:28:23
Alice Barrett has logged in at 2023-12-28 16:28:23

ATLANTA (AP) — A South Korean solar panel maker announced Wednesday that it will invest more than $2.5 billion to build factories in Georgia, which it says is the largest solar investment in American history.

Qcells, a division of Hanwha Solutions, projects that it will supply about 30% of total solar panel demand in the U.S. by 2027, including manufacturing solar panel components that are typically manufactured outside of the United States.

“As the demand for clean energy continues to grow across the country, we stand ready to engage thousands of people to create 100% American-made and sustainable solar solutions, from raw materials to finished modules,” said Justin Lee, CEO of Qcells, in an explanation.

President Joe Biden described the announcement as “a win for workers, consumers and our climate,” with the Democrat saying in a statement that it would create good jobs, reduce America’s dependency on other countries for solar components, reduce the cost of solar panels and help to reduce CO2 emissions.

A new $2.31 billion plant in Cartersville, about 55 kilometers northwest of Atlanta, will hire 2,000 workers and meet one of the goals of the climate and health bill Biden signed into law in August.

The law included provisions by Georgia Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, both Democrats, that allowed companies to claim tax credits for manufacturing solar panel parts.

The Cartersville facility will produce silicon ingots and wafers, as well as solar cells — key components in a solar panel. The company will use polysilicon manufactured at a REC Silicon facility in Moses Lake, Washington. Hanwha last year bought 21% of REC, whose shares are listed in Norway. The Company also signed a contract to explore for silicon metal from a Ferroglobe refinery in Alloy, West Virginia.

Brian Deese, director of Biden’s National Economic Council, said such supply chain integration will help break China’s stranglehold on solar panel components and untie knots in overseas supply chains.

Deese said the climate change and health bill is an example of the kind of industrial policy Biden wants to see “to make sure this is where innovation happens, this is where good jobs are created, and we’re exporting products to the clean energy economy, not exporting jobs.”

Qcells now manufactures solar panels capable of generating 1.7 gigawatts of electricity annually at a plant in Dalton, about 120 kilometers northwest of Atlanta. The company announced a $171 million second phase there last year to hire 470 people. It said Wednesday it would build a $181 million third phase and hire another 500 workers to take employment there to over 1,700.

After the expansions, the company will produce 8.4 gigawatts worth of panels in the United States, or about 10,000 solar panels per year. This includes 5.1 gigawatts of capacity at Dalton and 3.3 gigawatts at Cartersville.

“My goal remains to make Georgia a world leader in advanced energy generation,” Ossoff said in a statement.

Warnock, Ossoff and Biden government officials say Biden’s strategy is working to improve the country’s manufacturing base as part of the clean energy transition.

“I think it’s fair to say that this deal brought President Biden’s vision to life,” John Podesta, Biden’s clean energy adviser, told reporters.

The Biden administration says its policies have spurred $300 billion in private investment from industries including semiconductors, clean energy, electric vehicles and batteries, including nearly $25 billion in Georgia. These include two electric vehicle plants valued at over $5 billion and a battery plant valued at over $4 billion announced for Cartersville in December. Hyundai Motor Group is building one of the vehicle plants and is working with South Korean company SK Group to build the battery plant in Cartersville.

Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who relied on his economic management to win re-election last year, praised the state’s business climate. Georgian officials have recruited electric vehicle and battery factories in particular.

“Qcells has long been a pioneer in the solar industry and solidified Georgia’s position as a leader in renewable energy and sustainable technologies when it cut the ribbon of the largest solar panel manufacturing facility in the western hemisphere in 2019,” said Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson said in a statement.

Biden’s national climate adviser Ali Zaidi said US factories are on track to more than quadruple the output of solar panels by 2024, from 7 gigawatts when Biden took office to 33.5 gigawatts. “That’s enough to convert about 5 million homes to clean solar energy every year,” Zaidi said.

The full stimulus package from state and local governments was not immediately clear. Qcells could qualify for more than $65 million in state income tax credits, at $5,250 per job over five years, as long as workers make at least $31,300 per year. Local officials said Qcells workers in Dalton had a starting wage of $17 an hour.


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