The Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) latest white paper on solar manufacturing and storage includes an interactive map. It shows that momentum has begun to build for a shift toward expanding domestic solar and storage production.
SEIA’s vision and goal is for the United States to become the most competitive, collaborative solar and energy storage industry in the world by the end of this decade, and this will be achieved through a workforce of American workers and its allies.
In “American Solar and Storage Manufacturing Renaissance: Managing the Transition Away from China,” SEIA notes that the transition away from excessive solar energy imports is beginning. And while we are not completely abandoning global markets and supply chains, the pace is accelerating to the point where we can reduce our dependence on China for solar and energy storage equipment and raw materials.
SEIA reports that the United States has the capacity to produce many elements important to the solar industry: metallurgical silicon, polysilicon, steel, aluminum, resins, mounts and fasteners, and other critical materials. The production capacity of modules, inverters and monitoring devices is already modest, and domestic special glass is limited. However, other elements such as solar ingots, wafers and cells have been almost entirely absent from the US supply chain.
The US anti-inflation law provides countless incentives to build US manufacturing and has effectively encouraged a number of companies to announce their intention to set up domestic production facilities. However, construction takes time, and for the next few years we will continue to depend on imports to facilitate the rapid deployment of solar energy systems required by the energy transition.
The largest source of solar cells and modules is currently Southeast Asia, which has production facilities run by manufacturers who have demonstrated the quality, financial stability and compliance necessary to warrant the warranty on their products that US consumers demand.
While sourcing products from Southeast Asia is a better option than China, it means the US is still beholden to other countries to help fuel our energy transition. This carries risks, as demonstrated by the supply chain challenges faced by Southeast Asian manufacturers in recent years. According to SEIA, the best way to limit risks and build more sustainable supply chains is to significantly expand domestic manufacturing.
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