One of the great contentions of the Section 201 trade case about to be decided by U.S. President Trump is what effect it will have upon the solar industry – specifically jobs. While any trade action that makes imported solar more expensive will harm jobs related to deployment – which currently make up the large majority of solar employment – there is the potential for new factories to be built to supply U.S. demand and to bring jobs and even supply chain with them.
But while the industry waits for Trump to make a decision, at least one global solar company is already investigating U.S. manufacturing. The city of Jacksonville, Florida, is currently negotiating with a solar manufacturer code named “Project Volt” for an incentive package to build factories in the state.
pv magazine was not able to determine with certainty which company this is by press time, however the manufacturer claims to have eight production facilities outside the United States, meaning that this is no small enterprise.
At its meeting on January 9, the Jacksonville City Council will decide on a resolution authorizing $4 million in city and state tax refunds along with a $23.8 million grant. A $20 million capital investment tax credit is also being considered, and the total package would be $54 million. This would include state grants for hiring veterans.
If the deal goes forward, construction on the new factories would begin by the end of June and would be done by the end of 2019, according to the Jacksonville Daily Record. It is unclear what the start date for manufacturing would be.
According to pv magazine’s internal calculations, if the tariff and quota recommendations made by SolarWorld are enacted and Canada and Singapore are exempted from the final tariffs, as recommended by the International Trade Commission, cells will be the bottleneck for tariff-free supply to the U.S. market.
Therefore if this factory begins producing solar cells, it could be an important source of supply for a constrained market. However mid-2019 would be a late date. GTM Research has indicated that most U.S. solar developers have secured modules for their utility-scale pipeline through the middle of this year, and that could lead to lean times between when this supply runs out and when new manufacturing is able to come online to meet demand.