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Korean giant plans $2.5bn US solar plant

Sunset over Solar energy Farm plant

Korean renewable energy business Qcells is set to invest more than $2.5 billion to build a complete solar supply chain in the US.

Located in Georgia, the manufacturing plant will be the largest investment in the history of American solar and is expected to bring Qcells’ total solar panel production capacity to 8.4GW by 2024.

Fewer than 5 large-scale solar module manufacturing facilities (more than 1GW) are currently operating in the US, while annual US solar PV installations are projected to grow from 16GW in 2022 to 41GW by the end of 2025, according to Wood Mackenzie.

Qcells said the passage of the Solar Energy Manufacturing for America Act within the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) was critical in its decision to expand its US footprint as this new investment at the federal level provides certainty for investors to go bold on clean energy.

Qcells’ announcement follows Enel North America which said last year it will build an industrial-scale production facility in the US for manufacturing solar photovoltaic (PV) modules, also citing the IRA’s incentives for domestic production.

Acting through its subsidiary, 3Sun USA, Enel is expecting the facility to be among the first in the US to produce solar cells, with a minimum production capacity of 3GW and the possibility to scale annual production to 6GW. First panels are expected on the market by the end of 2024.

Qcells, a subsidiary of Seoul-headquartered giant Hanwha Solutions, opened its first factory in Georgia in 2019 and hired 750 people to manufacture 1.7GW of solar. This grew last year with an announcement to add 1.4GW to its manufacturing output and hire 535 more people. Today’s announcement means Qcells will hire an additional 510 people.

Qcells will break ground on a new, state-of-the-art facility in Bartow County in Q1 2023 that will manufacture 3.3GW of solar ingots, wafers, cells, and finished panels, respectively. The company will also assemble an additional 2GW of solar panels at its Dalton, Georgia facility.

“As demand for clean energy continues to grow nationally, we’re ready to put thousands of people to work creating fully American Made and sustainable solar solutions, from raw material to finished panels,” said Justin Lee, chief executive of Qcells.

Senator Jon Ossoff, Democrat of Georgia, who introduced the Solar Energy Manufacturing for America Act, said: “My goal remains to make Georgia the world leader in advanced energy production. That's why, working closely with Qcells, I wrote and passed major legislation to bring more solar manufacturing jobs to our state. Now we are announcing the largest clean energy manufacturing project in American history, with thousands of solar jobs and billions of dollars on the way to Georgia.”

Qcells is best known for producing solar cells and modules, intelligent storage systems, and its growing international pipeline of large-scale renewable energy projects.