Turning America Into a Solar Manufacturing Powerhouse
Thursday, Mar 30 2023
A wave of new announcements by manufacturers reveals a massive swing in the American solar industry: a domestic solar manufacturing boom is underway. This is a sea change for energy security and jobs and will ensure the U.S. solar and storage industry has a reliable supply of solar equipment as it grows from nearly 5% of the nation’s electricity mix to a fundamental part of America's energy supply.
One year ago, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) revealed that companies were waiting in the wings, ready to invest in domestic manufacturing with the right market signals and policies in place.
Now, with new incentives and comprehensive industrial policies in place, they’re taking action.
Already, dozens of companies throughout the solar supply chain have made more than 40 domestic manufacturing announcements valued at more than $13 billion. To date, companies have announced 47 gigawatts (GW) of module manufacturing capacity, and well over 100 gigawatt-hours of battery manufacturing. Between solar components, power electronics, and battery storage, America’s solar and storage supply chain is set to add over 437 GW/GWh of new manufacturing capacity if proposed announcements and expansions come to fruition.
Regionally, Georgia, South Carolina, and Ohio are quickly becoming hubs for solar manufacturing, and Americans in these states will see a lot more job opportunities and local investments in their communities.
Source: Solar Energy Industries Association Solar & Storage Supply Chain Dashboard
Over the last seven months, there has been a flood of major module manufacturing announcements. For example, companies such as Mission Solar recently announced that they will be investing in domestic module manufacturing capabilities in the United States.
As domestic module manufacturing expands, demand for American-made upstream components like cells, wafers and ingots will grow along with it. Already, Enel, Qcells and Silfab have announced efforts to manufacture solar cells in the United States, and ingot wafer manufacturers are also readying efforts to launch domestic capacity.
Similar efforts are underway to create components that are essential for utility-scale and rooftop solar installations, such as inverters and trackers. Inverter manufacturer Enphase is moving forward with U.S. manufacturing, and tracker manufacturers like Nextracker, OMCO and Alpha Steel are preparing for even greater growth as panel production scales up.
The wave of new manufacturing announcements means greater job opportunities for American workers. Manufacturing has the largest jobs multiplier of any segment in the U.S. economy. Every factory job creates additional employment opportunities in other sectors, such as sales and purchasing, marketing, accounting, human resources, warehousing, logistics, and more. In addition, new factories help revitalize local economies, bringing restaurants and small businesses a new customer base.
SEIA estimates that by 2032 the solar and storage manufacturing workforce will grow to 115,000 Americans and lead to more than 507,000 jobs across the entire industry.
The manufacturing boom is transforming the U.S. solar manufacturing landscape. Domestic manufacturing incentives and long-term certainty in the market are spurring companies to act, along with the need to diversify supply chains amidst the Covid pandemic, semiconductor shortage, and ongoing global conflicts. SEIA estimates that within 3-5 years, domestic manufacturing capacity will reach critical mass, although many factories and facilities will open before that.
In 2021, SEIA’s goal to create 50 GW of domestic production capacity by 2030 seemed farfetched, but now, that goal is within reach. With the right policies and renewed certainty in the marketplace, the United States is on its way to becoming the most competitive and collaborative solar and storage industry in the world.