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SPI Sneak Preview: Expanding the U.S. Solar Manufacturing Base

Wednesday, Sep 18 2019

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By
John Smirnow
Solar Manufacturers

SEIA has set a bold vision for solar energy to account for 20% of all U.S. electricity generation by 2030. To get there, the industry will need to deploy nearly 400 gigawatts (GW) of solar in the next 10 years. Installations at that scale will require an unprecedented amount of manufacturing, from cells and modules to racking and inverters. At SEIA, we know it’s critical to take advantage of this opportunity and establish a vibrant and sophisticated solar supply chain here at home. 

We’ve taken the first step by setting the 2030 deployment goal. SEIA will continue to push for state and federal policies that create solid short- and long-term demand to drive investments in manufacturing. But the work can’t be limited to establishing new demand for panels. We need to work with the government at all levels, as well as stakeholders in the research and academic communities, to create policies and pathways for new manufacturing facilities and jobs in the United States. 

SEIA is not alone in this effort. There are already programs in place, like the U.S. Department of Energy’s American-Made Solar Prize that encourages investment in U.S. solar manufacturing. This important issue has found its way into the 2020 presidential race, with Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Governor Jay Inslee releasing detailed plans to spur clean energy manufacturing and make America a global leader— and exporter—of these critical technologies.  

A strong U.S. supply chain for solar and other clean energy products will facilitate an equitable and inclusive transition to a clean energy economy, moving us to renewable energy sources while promoting economic growth. The solar industry alone is poised to add more than 350,000 jobs over the next decade, increasing our manufacturing base will ensure those jobs are available in all 50 states and for Americans of every background.  

To make this happen, SEIA is putting a renewed focus on manufacturing at all levels. We’ve launched a new manufacturing division for our members, which will serve as a forum to collect and develop ideas and proposals for spurring new manufacturing across the country. While trade wars and tariffs have dominated national news, there are many ways to support manufacturing at the local, state and federal levels, and we’ll work with our members and other stakeholders to bring the best ideas forward. 

One opportunity to share best practices will be at SEIA’s Solar+ Manufacturing Summit this November in Chicago, which will bring together leaders on the manufacturing side of the industry, as well as experts from academia and government, to help develop this key component of the Solar+ Decade vision.

To get the conversation started before the November summit, I hope you’ll join an upcoming conversation about the latest trends, policies, and programs necessary to build a strong solar supply chain. I’ll be hosting a panel on “Emerging Trends in Solar Manufacturing” at Solar Power International on Tuesday, September 24  from 2:30-3:30 PM MT, to cover this important topic. And if you’re interested in getting more involved in manufacturing through SEIA membership, make sure to reach out to our team at membership@seia.org.  

This post is one of a series of SPI Sneak Previews written by staff at the Solar Energy Industries Association. To read other posts in this series or to find out what else SEIA has planned for Solar Power International and North America Smart Energy Week, visit www.seia.org/SPI. 

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