President Joe Biden’s economic plans are building an economy that works for all Americans. This CAP Action newsletter focuses on elevating trend stories on how the president’s policies are growing the economy by investing in people and places all over the country.
Last month, Vice President Kamala Harris visited Dalton, Georgia, to announce “the largest community solar effort in U.S. history.” The deal was backed by a new $2.5 billion investment from solar manufacturer Qcells that will create 2,500 new jobs. As the Associated Press reports: “Community solar projects allow people to tap into solar power generated at a shared site rather than on individual rooftops and are a way for renters and those without access to rooftop solar panels to receive the benefits of clean energy. [They also result] in an average of 10% in annual savings for customers.”
While the announcement in Georgia was historic in its nature and scale, it is just one example of the solar energy manufacturing renaissance happening all over America because of the Biden administration’s affordable clean energy plan. Historic investments are scaling production of a wide range of clean energy sources, fighting climate change, and improving public health by cutting air pollution.
Here is a look at how Americans and communities across the country are already benefiting from the Biden administration’s efforts to boost solar power manufacturing and grow the workforce needed to support this thriving industry.
- In August 2022, WTVG reported: “First Solar said it will invest $185 million in upgrading and expanding its Northwest Ohio manufacturing footprint, currently the largest vertically-integrated complex of its kind in the Western Hemisphere, by 0.9 GWDC. As part of its plans, First Solar will invest in expanding the capacity of its two operating facilities in Perrysburg and Lake Township, Ohio, by 0.6 GWDC to 3.6 GWDC of annual Series 6 module capacity. The company will also expand its third Ohio factory, expected to be commissioned in the first half of 2023, to 3.5 GWDC of annual Series 7 module capacity. The expansion will increase First Solar’s total investment in its Ohio manufacturing facilities to over $3 billion, with a cumulative annual production capacity of over 7 GWDC by 2025. First Solar estimates that the total new investment for all of its holdings, more than $1.2 billion, will add at least 850 new manufacturing jobs.”
- In March 2023, Construction Dive reported: “Invenergy is investing over $600 million through Illuminate USA to build a solar panel production facility in Pataskala, Ohio, according to a March 10 press release. The investment will include a $220 million commitment to acquire and build out a 1.1 million-square-foot building and will utilize 150 union jobs for construction, which will begin in April. Operations are expected to commence by the end of 2023, creating 850 administrative, assembly and engineering jobs.”
- In 2021, Xcel Energy announced plans to invest $575 million to build a solar energy plant that “would create 900 union construction jobs and provide enough electricity to power 100,000 Upper Midwest homes.” A year later, in September 2022, MPR News noted: “The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission reported that, once completed, the Sherco Solar project … is expected to cut carbon emissions by nearly 300,000 tons annually as the electricity it produces replaces some of the power generated by the Sherco coal-fired plant that’s set to close by 2030.” According to regulators, the project will generate about $240 million for the local economy over its lifetime. Xcel Energy expects that the project will be fully operational by late 2025, producing 460 megawatts of power upon completion.
- In January 2023, AZ Big Media reported: “JA Solar, a global solar cell and module manufacturing leader, announced it has leased space for its first manufacturing facility in the U.S. in Phoenix, Arizona. The facility will produce high-performance photovoltaic (PV) products and is expected to be operational by Q4 2023, creating over 600 new jobs. Representing a $60 million investment, the new facility will … produce high-efficiency solar panels (PV modules) for commercial and residential rooftop applications, as well as for utility-scale solar power plants deployment with an annual production capacity of 2 gigawatts (GW).”
- The JA Solar announcement followed last year’s announcement from solar engineering company Meyer Burger that it would establish a production site and North American headquarters in Goodyear, Arizona. According to AZ Big Media: “Initial annual production capacity of the [Meyer Burger] facility will be 400 MW and will include capabilities to manufacture solar modules for residential, commercial/industrial rooftop, and utility-scale applications. Production [was] expected to be operational by the end of 2022, creating an initial 250 manufacturing jobs, and over 500 jobs at full 1.5 GW ”
- Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) reports: “Utilities owned by Milwaukee-based WEC Energy Group and Madison Gas and Electric plan to spend $649 million to buy the … the 465-megawatt Koshkonong Solar Energy Center,” which would be the state’s largest renewable energy plant in Dane County. WPR added: “The project [will] host 300 megawatts of solar—enough to power 60,000 homes—and 165 megawatts of battery storage … inject[ing] $140 million into the local economy over the life of the plant and creat[ing] 600 jobs during peak construction.” WPR also reports that WEC Energy Group said the plant—construction of which will begin later this year and be completed by the end of 2025—is part of a plan to “save customers $2 billion over the next 20 years.” According to environmental group Clean Wisconsin, the project will help avoid 15 to 20 million tons of carbon emissions over its lifespan.
- Thomas Insights reports: “Vitro Architectural Glass, a maker of architectural and automotive float glass, recently reached an agreement to supply glass from its plant in Cochranton, Pennsylvania, to First Solar, which is ramping up its production capacity … Vitro plans to spend upwards of $90 million on facility upgrades and restart a line that was idled about three years ago in order to produce large pieces of glass that will be installed on the backs of solar panels.” Hiring for the Cochranton plant will proceed through 2024 and accelerate into early 2025, with Vitro planning to start the solar production line in mid-2025. According to Thomas Insights, “The pact is expected to result in more than $1 billion in sales for Vitro over the next 10 years.”
- According to the city of Georgetown, Texas, GAF Energy, “a leading provider of solar roofing in North America,” signed a lease and begun construction on a 450,000-square-foot facility in the city, with construction expected to be completed by June 2023. The city noted: “GAF Energy plans to hire 265 employees in high tech jobs over the next 10 years at the Georgetown facility. The total capital investment for the project is estimated to be over $100 million in that time.” Estimates predict that the city will see a net 10-year economic impact of $3.75 million.
- The Dallas Morning News reports: “An Illinois-based utility services and equipment firm is upsizing its Texas operation with a new division headquarters and plant in The Colony. Elm Cos. is building a 125,000-square-foot headquarters and manufacturing facility for its microgrid and solar divisions. … The new office and manufacturing building will allow the company to expand its North Texas workforce to more than 100 engineering, production technicians, customer service, sales and management employees.”
- In April 2023, WLTX reported: “Sumter County will be getting 300 new jobs and helping the nation go green in the process after it was announced that [solar energy firms] SEM Wafertech Inc and Solar4America Technology are establishing their first operations facility in South Carolina. … [SEM Wafertech Inc.] is expecting to produce and deliver its first solar wafers in the US by the end of the year, with capacity ramping to three gigawatts by 2024.” WLTX added: “Silicone wafers manufactured at the Sumter facility will be used in a wide variety of applications, including photovoltaic cells and semiconductors. Solar panels will serve commercial, residential and industrial energy generation and storage needs.”
- In November 2022, Bloomberg reported: “First Solar Inc., the biggest US panel manufacturer, plans to build a $1.1 billion factory in Alabama, a major domestic investment that follows passage of a landmark climate law. The plant in Lawrence County is expected to be operational by 2025 and have an annual capacity equivalent to 3.5 gigawatts.” According to Reuters: “The factory in Lawrence County in northern Alabama will be First Solar’s first U.S. manufacturing facility outside of Ohio and give the company production lines closer to major solar markets like Texas. It will open in 2025 and create 700 jobs.”
Americans on new incentives for solar energy adoption and manufacturing
Alisha Vasquez of Arizona is pictured. (Photo credit: Alisha Vasquez)
Alisha Vasquez, in an op-ed for the Arizona Daily Star:
The Biden Administration has taken an essential step towards ushering in that change by increasing solar installation tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act. In addition to a grant from a local solar co-op, this policy helped turn my dream of installing solar in my home into a reality in December of 2022.
Juanita Hidalgo of Georgia is pictured. (Photo credit: Juanita Hidalgo)
Juanita Hidalgo, a native of Bogotá, Colombia, in an op-ed for Univision:
With the IRA opening the door for the solar industry to expand in America, it’s also opening doors for me. The more industry we have based in America, the more opportunities and career paths I will have access to. … With the hundreds of thousands of [clean energy] jobs created, my future career may be among one of them. To me, it’s more than just a career, it’s the potential to bring reliable, clean energy to communities like those in my homeland.
Kelly Forest of Pennsylvania is pictured. (Photo credit: Kelly Forest)
Kelly Forest, in a letter to the editor of the Centre Daily Times:
Thanks to IRA, it has never been more advantageous to reduce our use of fossil fuels. … But what really makes me excited is that this legislation helps lower to middle income households get up-front discounts on these projects.
In the news
The Wall Street Journal: “Planned hydrogen electrolyzer projects globally have jumped by 18% in the last six months, surpassing one terawatt of electricity capacity for the first time, according to a semi annual report by Aurora Energy Research. North America has seen the largest increase in planned hydrogen projects in the past six months, according to the Oxford-based consulting firm.”
Detroit Metro Times: “[Detroit Mayor Mike] Duggan attributes the declining unemployment rate to the city’s ongoing success at attracting good paying jobs. In July, construction will begin on District Detroit, a tax-subsidized project to construct or renovate 10 buildings in downtown and the Cass Corridor. That is expected to create 12,000 new construction jobs and 6,000 permanent jobs.”
Bloomberg: “Over the past five decades, the US has installed about 140 gigawatts of solar power generation capacity, enough to provide more than 3% of its power. That is just a start: Between now and the end of the decade, the country might add three times that much. It might seem fanciful to expect a market to quadruple in size in only eight years. But for that we can thank President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act and its generous, decade-long subsidies for both clean energy manufacturing and generation in the US.”
CNBC: “Standing against conservative critiques of the Biden administration’s conditions on computer chip-manufacturing funding, the tech industry group Chamber of Progress urged the government to maintain its requirements, which include providing child care for workers. The group counts Apple, Amazon, Google and Meta among its corporate backers. Though they are not the target audience to receive the funding created by the CHIPS and Science Act, Chamber of Progress spokesperson Chris MacKenzie said it’s important to the group that the program run both effectively and on time, since chip manufacturing is important to the entire tech economy in the U.S.”