Hanwha Solutions, a Korean company that owns clean energy solutions provider Qcells, has received a $320 million investment plan for solar manufacturing expansion in the United States and Korea with the aim of providing secure, cleaner energy amid mounting calls for energy security and net-zero emissions.
Hanwha said it will seek to spend $170 million building a 1.4 GW solar module production facility in the U.S. Qcells already operates a 1.7 GW module factory in Dalton, Ga. With the new factory expected to come online as early as the first half of 2023, Qcells’ total production capacity in the U.S. will exceed 3 GW – equivalent to one-third of current U.S. solar module production capacity.
The company also announced its plan to expand cell production capacity in Korea. By investing $150 million, the company will expand its cell factory in there. When the factory expansions are complete next year, overall cell capacity in Korea will be 5.4 GW. It is the first investment in Korean solar cell manufacturing in five years.
The investments aim to address growing demand for renewable energy, as ongoing energy market turbulence has sent fossil fuel prices soaring. Already worsened by a global supply squeeze during the pandemic, these price fluctuations have prompted calls around the world to reduce fossil fuel dependence aiming for energy security and carbon reduction.
“Growing uncertainties tell us that securing reliable, sustainable energy has become more important than ever before,” states Justin Lee, CEO of Hanwha Qcells. “To do this, Qcells will increase renewable supply from diversified sources and find cleaner ways to produce energy. That way, we will contribute to both energy security and net-zero emissions.”
To improve and further decarbonize its solar panel production process, Hanwha Solutions will secure low-carbon polysilicon from manufacturers around the world. In April, the company agreed with Korean polysilicon manufacturer OCI to receive polysilicon made in factories using carbon-free hydroelectricity. OCI will provide Hanwha with “clean polysilicon” for the next 10 years.
Other sources are providing low-carbon polysilicon to Hanwha as well. In March, the company became the largest shareholder of REC Silicon, the Norway-headquartered polysilicon manufacturer, which operates massive production facilities in the US. REC Silicon similarly uses hydropower to make solar-grade polysilicon at its production facility in Moses Lake, Wash.
Faced with soaring energy prices in Europe, the company also came up with solutions to lower heating bills. Qcells is working with Samsung Electronics to introduce a smart heating system with the aim of hitting the market in June. Combing Qcells’ solar panels and energy storage system with Samsung’s Eco Heating System, it will lower heating bills for households in Europe.
Hanwha Solutions’ decision to expand the Qcells’ module factory in the U.S. comes as a part of its effort to help rebuild the domestic US solar supply chain. It will create good-paying job opportunities for generations to come. Already employing approximately 750 staff at its module production facility in the U. S., Hanwha aims to further boost the number of local jobs with the opening of the new module production facility.
Upon the implementation of long-term, durable policy designed to incentivize solar manufacturing, Hanwha will further expand investments in the U.S., including wafers and cells. This requires implementing a “whole-of-government” approach, including smart trade policy, strengthened Buy American rules, and especially long-term domestic manufacturing tax legislation.
“Ensuring policy certainty is crucial to realizing our goal of rebuilding the US solar value chain,” adds Lee. “With our relentless efforts to provide reliable, sustainable energy, we will do our utmost to solidify Qcells as the dependable choice for the U.S. solar market.”