Hanwha Q Cells has turn into the latest photo voltaic producer to announce a large funding within the U.S. photo voltaic provide chain after the 2022 passage of the Inflation Discount Act, pledging to spend $2.5 billion on increasing its manufacturing operations in Georgia.
The South Korean firm will broaden one plant to five.1 GW of annual manufacturing capability from 1.7 GW whereas opening a second plant that may produce 3.3 GW yearly.
Scott Moskowitz, Qcells’ head of market technique and public affairs, informed Utility Dive that the corporate is seeking to capitalize on demand for photo voltaic modules generated by photo voltaic tax credit within the IRA, whereas compensating for a simultaneous world provide crunch.
World photo voltaic module provide spiked in uncertainty for U.S. importers in 2022 following the passage of the Uyghur Compelled Labor Prevention Act — which resulted in border seizures of photo voltaic module shipments — and the U.S. Division of Commerce’s investigation into potential tariff violations by the makers of imported photo voltaic elements.
The uncertainty of world provide mixed with the manufacturing tax credit within the IRA has given QCells further incentive to spend money on constructing out the home provide chain, although Moskowitz stated the corporate had already been weighing an enlargement. QCells is a subsidiary of South Korean industrial group Hanwha Corp., and the backing of a big multinational helped present the arrogance wanted for such a steep funding.
Utility Dive spoke to Moskowitz concerning the elements behind the corporate’s Jan. 11 enlargement announcement, the near-future for the photo voltaic business and the way the extra environment friendly tunnel oxide passivated contact, or TOPCon, expertise for photo voltaic panels is growing its market share, competing with passivated emitter rear contact, or PERC.
TOPCon expertise will increase the conversion effectivity of panels it’s utilized to, permitting the panel to transform extra complete vitality per sq. inch. QCells presently produces each TOPCon and PERC panels, calling its Q.ANTUM line “probably the most mature PERC expertise” — however the firm seems to be shifting its focus to TOPCon. In Might, QCells introduced an enlargement to its present Georgia facility, and stated that the brand new manufacturing unit would produce solely TOPCon panels.
The next interview has been edited for readability and brevity.
UTILITY DIVE: What have been the most important elements influencing this funding?
SCOTT MOSKOWITZ: For a few years now, we have been speaking fairly a bit publicly concerning the actually robust have to spend money on further manufacturing, to deal with constructing out the provision chain broadly.
I believe the business has been actually hungry for a sturdy, dependable and regular stream of merchandise. Demand has definitely exceeded the provision of photo voltaic panels accessible to the U.S. marketplace for a number of years now. So we have now been targeted on working towards among the funding that we simply made.
There have been varied steps to get right here. We constructed our first manufacturing unit within the U.S. again in 2018 in Dalton, Georgia, we invested in REC Silicon on the finish of 2021. [In April 2022], we introduced that we had begun an enlargement of our Dalton facility from 1.7 gigawatts to three.1, and now we’re in a position to see the remainder of this funding take form as a completely built-in provide chain that features home manufacturing of ingots, wafers and cells, as a result of there are presently no such amenities in america. For us, that is a part of an enormous, long-term imaginative and prescient. The U.S. is our largest market and has been for a while, and now we’re in a position to actually make some landmark manufacturing investments which might be going to assist to additional provide and develop this market.
UTILITY DIVE: How was that call influenced by the Inflation Discount Act?
SCOTT MOSKOWITZ: It performs an unlimited half. That invoice contains incentives particularly for producers. It features a long-term extension of the funding tax credit score, it contains credit score adders for domestically produced merchandise. Demand was already extraordinarily excessive and there had already been provide chain points that people have been actually dedicated to fixing. So the IRA places gasoline onto the hearth and creates a extremely robust alternative within the sector shifting ahead.
UTILITY DIVE: Did the IRA velocity up Qcells’ plans to broaden?
SCOTT MOSKOWITZ: I believe each firm has been taking a look at making a majority of these investments for a very long time. The availability chain has all the time been actually difficult and we as an business have wanted a majority of these investments for a very long time. I believe [the IRA] lastly provides people the arrogance and talent to make the last word willpower to try this.
UTILITY DIVE: Over the subsequent few years, as photo voltaic imports stay unsure, will an entire home provide chain be very important to the business with the ability to transfer ahead with photo voltaic tasks within the U.S.?
SCOTT MOSKOWITZ: Qcells has a diversified provide chain – we manufacture within the U.S., Korea and Malaysia and these [domestic] investments are going to take a while to construct. We have already received the present facility in Dalton. That one’s been underneath enlargement for the reason that center of final yr, however the brand new facility in Georgia goes to take round two years to assemble and make operational. So the market goes to proceed alongside and hopefully that may assist it develop additional, as soon as these amenities come on-line in a pair years.
UTILITY DIVE: What technological improvements in photo voltaic modules is Qcells embracing?
SCOTT MOSKOWITZ: These factories will probably be utterly state-of-the-art. They are going to be extremely automated, extremely superior amenities that be sure that they can produce merchandise on a globally aggressive foundation. And from our perspective, they’re gonna be making probably the most superior panels that we make wherever on the planet. Qcells was a pioneer in PERC expertise – our Q.ANTUM expertise has been in the marketplace for a very long time – and the subsequent evolution goes from PERC to TOPCon, which is definitely the trail that we’re on. R&D can be central to who we’re as an organization, we’re all the time targeted on what the subsequent product transitions are going to seem like. However the large image challenge is that we need to preserve versatile market demand. So we’ll all the time be sure that our factories are conscious of what the market is searching for, and what is going on to be probably the most engaging product of provide.
UTILITY DIVE: How do you see TOPCon growing? Will it share the market with PERC, or take over?
SCOTT MOSKOWITZ: I am not a product skilled, however usually talking, I believe most folk see it as type of the pure evolution of PERC expertise, and the subsequent method to get added effectivity out of the bankable, dependable expertise that is in the marketplace. There are a number of variations in crystalline silicon cell and module expertise on the market. You have seen a number of business transitions prior to now, from multi- to mono-crystalline, from full cells to half cells. We’re all the time taking a look at, ‘What’s going to be the fitting mixture of product traits to create one of the best merchandise on the market?’ So whether or not that is PERC, TOPCon, P-type, N-type, we’re all the time going to be exploring that.
UTILITY DIVE: Do you see any explicit advantages from being a multinational firm headquartered in South Korea?
SCOTT MOSKOWITZ: From our perspective, it is created a extremely robust world focus – a powerful deal with partnering with suppliers and prospects around the globe. And being a part of an enormous multinational additionally actually helps us to face out as an organization that’s going to be round for a very long time. We’re a dependable associate to corporations. We’re as bankable because it will get. And that helps us to trust in making large investments for the longer term.