New tool showcases solar manufacturing outside of China

A new interactive tool aims to showcase the solar industry’s manufacturing capacity outside of China, which currently dominates most supply chains, and has been subject to trade disputes and forced labor concerns.

The Ultra Low-Carbon Solar Alliance has mapped existing global solar manufacturing capacity over 50 MW, including solar-grade polysilicon, ingot/wafer, cell, and module production.

The map also features manufacturing announcements made since October 2021 by relying on press releases and trade media publications.

“We hope this work will help illuminate the significant growth of solar manufacturing occurring globally, much of it in low-carbon economies,” said Michael Parr, executive director of the Ultra Low-Carbon Solar Alliance. “We still have a lot of work to do, but a better solar supply chain is emerging.”

Impact of the Inflation Reduction Act

Historic incentives for domestic solar manufacturing included in the Inflation Reduction Act have set off a flurry of company announcements since the legislation was first unveiled in July.

First Solar, Qcells, Toledo Solar, SEG Solar, and Meyer Burger all plan to invest millions of dollars in solar module manufacturing facilities as a result of the law.

It’s not just the module manufacturers planning to cash in, either.

REC Silicon, which was already restarting polysilicon production its Moses Lake, Washington facility, committed to negotiating a raw material supply agreement with Mississippi Silicon.

SPI Energy Co. said it signed a letter of intent to secure a 1.5 GW solar wafer manufacturing equipment to increase its capacity to 3 GW by 2024.

The Factor This! podcast, recorded live from RE+ in Anaheim, analyzed the impact of the Inflation Reduction Act on domestic solar manufacturing. “The race is on to meet demand with made-in-America solar modules” featured Lightsourcebp Americas CEO Kevin Smith, Cypress Creek Renewables VP of Engineering Luke O’Dea, and Qcells North America Head of Market Strategy and Public Affairs Scott Moskowitz. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts!

The urgency to shift the solar industry’s supply chains away from China is linked to trade disputes and concerns over forced labor.

In June, President Joe Biden paused for two years any new tariffs on solar modules imported from Southeast Asia, which currently accounts for about 80% of module supply. But the Commerce Department’s investigation of the Auxin Solar tariff petition could still result in additional tariffs.

Separately, gigawatts of solar modules tied to forced labor in China are stuck at the border due to the enforcement of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act and Withhold Release Orders.

A new module assembly facility takes 8-10 months to come online, while it can take a bit longer — around two years — to launch new ingot, wafer, and cell operations.

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Author: John Engel