New U.S. solar panel manufacturing activity happening in 2019

The announced tariffs on foreign solar panels in early 2018 left international module manufacturers with an interesting question: If we want to sell in the United States tariff-free, should we buy one of these dormant legacy manufacturing plants or start fresh with a new facility? With technological advances quickly outpacing the abilities of previously successful manufacturing lines (updating old lines to four or five busbars takes a lot of time, money and effort), many foreign manufacturers announced brand new facilities for 2019 openings. Here’s our latest roundup of what’s new in U.S. solar panel assembly—from those actually moving material and others just blowing smoke. If plants are up and running, whether they’re working at their quoted megawatt capacity is another story.

This list does not include already functioning assembly plants; only new or updated/expanded facilities announced last year. Check out our full list of current U.S. solar manufacturers here.

CSUN – Sacramento, California
Announced expansion: 200 MW
Jan. 2019 status: Unable to confirm

Chinese manufacturer CSUN announced in 2017 it would build a 400-MW panel assembly plant outside Sacramento, California. Last year, officials told Solar Power World it would expand the plant by an additional 200 MW. Based on various discussions with industry reps, we don’t believe any product has come out of the Sacramento plant, and we cannot confirm the plant’s 2019 status.

First Solar – Perrysburg, Ohio
Announced expansion: 1,200 MW
Jan. 2019 status: Under construction

Dominant CdTe thin-film manufacturer First Solar announced in April 2018 that it would build a 1.2-GW manufacturing expansion near its current 600-MW plant in Ohio. The new 1 million-sq.-ft factory is on track for late 2019 completion.

GreenBrillance – Baltimore, Maryland
Announced new facility: 125 MW
Jan. 2019 status: Soon to be under construction

Local mid-Atlantic installer GreenBrillance has made plans to build a 120-MW solar panel manufacturing plant in Baltimore. The company has manufactured panels in India for the Indian market for years, and officials feel the time is now right to bring that manufacturing expertise to the United States. President and CEO Sumit Bhatnagar told Solar Power World the plan is to have premium modules coming out of the Maryland plant in Summer 2019.

Hanwha Q CELLS – Dalton, Georgia
Announced new facility: 1,600 MW
Jan. 2019 status: Production should begin this quarter

Hanwha did not waste any time after announcing a new 1,600-MW assembly facility in Georgia last year. The company will produce new Q.PEAK DUO modules in the United States, and reps confirmed with Solar Power World that production should begin sometime in Q1 2019.

Heliene – Mountain Iron, Minnesota
Announced new/refurbished facility: 140 MW
Jan. 2019 status: Completed, modules in production, additional expansion expected

Canadian manufacturer Heliene restarted a shuttered 140-MW Silicon Energy facility in Minnesota in summer 2018 while also discussing refurbishing a former Suniva manufacturing plant in Oregon. After replacing “vintage” manufacturing equipment in Minnesota to get the plant running in August 2018, the company told Solar Power World it decided against taking on the Oregon plant and is now contemplating adding an additional line in Minnesota to better use local resources for more megawatt capacity.

JinkoSolar – Jacksonville, Florida
Announced new facility: 400 MW
Jan. 2019 status: Completed, full ramp-up soon

Jinko was one of the first foreign panel manufacturers to announce a U.S. location. As of November 2018, a pilot line started production out of the 400-MW plant in Florida. Nigel Cockroft, JinkoSolar (U.S.) general manager, said in a holiday email to customers that the company expects a full ramp-up of production within the first few weeks of 2019.

LG Solar USA – Huntsville, Alabama
Announced new facility: 500 MW
Jan. 2019 status: Hiring in progress, production beginning this quarter

LG made an easy strategic decision to enter U.S. solar panel manufacturing last year. The company had an empty building on its Huntsville, Alabama, campus that once built color television sets. LG decided a facility once used for an old technology was a perfect fit for new solar production. Company reps confirmed with Solar Power World that the hiring of 160 workers is currently under way, and LG’s NeON 2 line of monocrystalline modules is expected to begin shipping from the Alabama plant in Q1.

Mission Solar – San Antonio, Texas
Announced expansion: 200 MW
Jan. 2019 status: Unable to confirm

Texas-based manufacturer Mission Solar said it would expand its 200-MW facility by an additional 200 MW in the wake of the foreign solar panel tariffs. Visiting solar installers have told Solar Power World that the plant is under expansion, but we have been unable to confirm with company reps when the Texas facility will be working at its larger capacity.

Seraphim Solar USA – Jackson, Mississippi
Announced expansion: 340 MW
Jan. 2019 status: Unable to confirm

PV Magazine reported that Seraphim Solar USA Manufacturing shut down its 160-MW panel assembly facility in Mississippi in October to replace equipment and expand to a full 500 MW. Originally the company said it would resume manufacturing before the end of 2018 and have full production by Q1. Solar Power World has been unable to confirm if things are still on track.

Silfab – Bellingham, Washington
Announced expansion: 200+ MW
Jan. 2019 status: Modules in production, expansion in progress

When Canada-headquartered Silfab bought Itek Energy’s 150-MW manufacturing plant in Washington in August 2018, the company immediately announced plans for expansion. Silfab quickly got lines switched over and was producing modules in late October. Silfab’s head of business development and marketing Geoff Atkins told Solar Power World the company is currently expanding existing lines in Washington as well as adding new lines for its DSM-affiliated back-contact technology. Atkins expects the Bellingham plant to be working between 400 and 500 MW by the end of the year.

SolarTech Universal – Riviera Beach, Florida
Announced expansion: 200 MW
Jan. 2019 status: Unable to confirm

SolarTech Universal in Florida is a small-but-mighty manufacturer of premium solar panels. This past summer, the company announced plans to expand its 80-MW facility to upwards of 300 MW. Company reps told Solar Power World they are not yet ready to comment on future plans, but announcements are coming soon.

SolSuntech – Virginia
Announced new facility: 100 MW
Jan. 2019 status: Still raising funds, soon to be under construction

SolSuntech is a brand new solar panel company with a unique manufacturing process. Korean researchers have developed a corrugated 3D solar cell that recaptures reflected light for higher output and efficiency. Currently in the funding process, SolSuntech is looking to build a manufacturing facility in Virginia, and, if all goes well, begin commercial production in December 2019.

SunPower – Hillsboro, Oregon
Announced acquisition: ~200 MW
Jan. 2019 status: Equipment upgraded, production should begin this quarter

SunPower officially acquired SolarWorld’s ~500-MW manufacturing site in Oregon in October and immediately began switching over equipment to produce its high-efficiency P-Series of modules. While SolarWorld had not functioned at its full capacity for years, SunPower has stated it should reach 200 MW of production in 2019.

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