First Solar, the world’s largest producer of thin-film material solar panels, announced it would invest up to $1.2 billion to build a new factory in the U.S. This follows the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which offers renewable energy incentives.
Fengqi You is a professor of energy systems engineering at Cornell University and an expert on the life cycle of solar panels and solar industry trends. You says First Solar’s plans to expand stateside will not fundamentally change the solar value chain, but will likely encourage other manufacturers to make similar expansions in the U.S.
“The expanded capacity of U.S.-made solar panels aligns well with the climate policy and the goal of securing and enhancing U.S. photovoltaic (PV) technology leadership and competitiveness and reducing the reliance on foreign supplies of solar products.
“First Solar is the world's largest producer of CdTe thin-film PV modules, so this is an important first step toward the self-sufficiency of important energy products for the nation's decarbonization efforts.
“While this plan will not fundamentally change the global PV value chain, it will likely motivate other manufacturers to consider reshoring their manufacturing capacities (and jobs) back in the U.S., leveraging the Inflation Reduction Act.”
Max Zhang is a sustainable energy systems expert at Cornell University and a faculty director at the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability. Zhang says solar panel reuse and recycling are critical challenges facing the industry and that the growth of solar manufacturing in the U.S. will open the door to solutions.
“Building domestic solar manufacturing capability not only tackles the energy security and supply chain challenges that we are facing currently, but also opens up the opportunities to address the emerging solar panel reuse and recycling issues effectively in the next decades, which I think are critical to the long-term environmental sustainability for the solar industry.”
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