Georgia in talks with German solar maker for huge new plant

A German solar panel module maker plans to open a factory in Georgia that could employ up to 1,400 people.

President Joe Biden’s New Inflation Reduction Act Should Encourage Growth in U.S. Solar Panel Manufacturing

State officials met with representatives of a German company that is considering a manufacturing plant in Georgia to produce solar modules, including wafers, frames, racks and battery systems, according to approved minutes of June 2 meeting of the General Session of the State Council of the Technical College System of Georgia.

During a discussion on external affairs and economic development, Winton Machine Co. CEO Lisa Winton told the meeting that state officials Quick start program met with representatives of the public limited company to discuss the project, according to the minutes. Quick Start is an incentive program within the technical college system that formulates specialized training programs for manufacturers to ensure a labor pool.

Winton was appointed by Governor Brian Kemp in 2019 as a representative of the 7th congressional district on the system’s board of directors, which establishes standards, regulations, and policies for educational institutions. She did not respond to Bisnow’s requests for comments.

Baoky Vu, the director of Forthright Partners, based in Atlanta and the representative of the 4th congressional district on the board of directors, recognized for bisnow in a message that “negotiations are still ongoing,” but declined to comment further.

Winton said at the June meeting that Georgia Quick Start representatives were also in talks with a heart-monitoring device maker that plans to land in the Atlanta metro area, bringing with it 400 new jobs.

Negotiations with the unidentified solar manufacturer come under the Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law Tuesday by President Joe Biden, contains significant new federal incentives to further encourage domestic manufacturing of solar-related products.

The law, the largest federal climate spending package to date, includes $60 billion to expand manufacturing of renewable energy infrastructure in the United States, including $30 billion over the next 10 years to encourage the national manufacture of solar panels and components, wind turbines, inverters and batteries for electricity. vehicles and the electrical network, according to a August analysis by the Joint Congressional Committee on Taxation.

“These provisions, which allow government support to increase as production volumes increase, are expected to significantly expand solar manufacturing in the United States, including wafer and cell manufacturing where China holds a virtual monopoly on global manufacturing,” said Timothy Brightbill and Laura, partners at Wiley Law. El-Sabaawi and his associate Paul Devamithran written in a blog post analyze the impacts of the law.

John Boyd, director of corporate site selection consultancy The Boyd Co., said economic development professionals expect a burst of activity among solar manufacturers, particularly in Georgia. , which is considered to have a favorable business climate.

“Add solar panel production to the list of new growth industries our country is moving into,” Boyd said. “We’ve had several requests for solar panel data over the past few months, so obviously we’re seeing an increase.”

Two other solar equipment makers were looking for new manufacturing plants in Georgia, but those deals were put on hold after talks over Biden’s first reconstruction better bill collapsed, source close to state economic development said bisnow. Now that a simplified version of the law has been signed with incentives for solar production, the state expects activity to resume.

Earlier this year, South Korean group Hanwha announced plans to invest $171 million in a new solar module facility for its Qcells division that would employ 470 people in Dalton, Georgia, more than 80 miles north from downtown Atlanta. Qcells already operates a solar panel facility in Dalton which manufactures 12,000 panels per day, according to the governor’s office.

With the passage of the IRA, Qcells is now looking to other sites in the state for additional manufacturing capacity, the company’s head of marketing and public affairs said. said recently The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Solar companies will gravitate to Georgia and the Southeast for many of the same reasons electric vehicle companies have flocked to the Peach State, said Didi Caldwell, founding director of Greenville-based Global Location Strategies, in South Carolina. bisnow. These reasons: abundant land, talent and cheap electricity.

Caldwell said that the United States was on its way to becoming the main manufacturer of solar panels in the early 2000s until Chinese factories abandoned lower-cost panels produced with good labor in the market. market, strangling the nascent national industry.

An example is Hemlock Semiconductor, a company that manufactures photovoltaic coatings for solar panels. In 2008, the company announced plans for a $1.2 billion factory in Clarksville, Tennessee, backed by more than $340 million in state and county incentives.

“It was a billion-dollar facility back when billion-dollar facilities weren’t common,” Caldwell said.

In 2013, before the factory opened, Hemlock laid off 400 of its 500 employees there. In 2014, the company completely scuttled the plant, with then-company president Denise Beachy blaming the shutdown on economic and geopolitical circumstances.

“Manufacturers in the United States and elsewhere just couldn’t compete,” Caldwell said. bisnow. But with the new federal incentives, “it just makes more and more sense.”

James R. Rhodes