Suniva, Heliene to jointly produce US-made solar modules


From pv magazine USA

Under the terms of a three-year sourcing contract, Heliene will produce fully US-made solar modules that incorporate Suniva’s domestically made solar cells.

Heliene has manufactured solar modules in Ontario, Canada, since 2010 and in Mountain Iron, Minnesota, since 2018. In December 2023, the company announced an an investment of an additional $10 million to expand its manufacturing and assembly line at its Minnesota facility.

Minnesota Line One was first installed in 2018 at 150 MW and has now doubled in capacity to 300 MW with the recent investment. Line One is situated contiguously to a second, 500 MW line installed in 2022. The company said that the upgrades will improve the efficiency of the line.

Suniva said in October 2023 that it would restart its idled factory in Norcross, Georgia, which operated at around 450 MW of production capacity at the time of its closure in 2017, when the company filed for bankruptcy, claiming it could not compete with cheap solar imports.

In response to a Section 201 trade petition filed by Suniva and SolarWorld, the Trump administration imposed duties in 2018 on imported solar cells and panels for a period of four years. The tariffs were extended, but in June 2022, President Joe Biden issued a moratorium on solar tariffs, pausing any collection of fees for two years.

According to Matt Card, the president and COO of Suniva, the tariffs have helped US panel production, but he credited subsidies contained in the US Inflation Reduction Act for finally enabling Suniva to produce solar cells again.

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Suniva said in October 2023 that its goal was to kick off production this spring with a capacity of 1 GW and eventually scale up to 2.5 GW per year.

The companies expect the sourcing contract to result in solar modules that qualify for the the 10% Domestic Content Bonus Investment Tax Credit, which can be obtained only by using US-made cells, according to guidance from the US Department of Treasury, published in May 2023.

To qualify for the bonus, developers must purchase modules with US-made solar cells, which continues to be a challenge due to the dearth of domestic cell manufacturers. That is slowly changing, however, as more cell manufacturers set up shop in the United States, including Meyer Burger, which announced a 2 GW solar cell factory in Colorado complementing its Arizona-based 2 GW solar module factory.

Heliene expects its US crystalline silicon solar modules with Suniva cells to become available in mid-2024.

“Heliene is proud to embark on this historic partnership with Suniva at a time when the US is poised to capture a greater share of the global solar market by bolstering domestic manufacturing and onshoring of supply,” said Martin Pochtaruk, the CEO of Heliene. “Introducing Suniva’s US-made cells into our manufacturing process will enable Heliene to expand its commitment to offering best-in-class modules that enable our customers to qualify for lucrative tax credits and incentives.”

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