Massachusetts, USA — U.S.-based solar cell and module maker Suniva announced that it will open a second manufacturing facility in 2014, set to be located in Michigan. The facility will be able to churn out up to 200 MW of capacity of its high-efficiency crystalline silicon solar cells and modules annually.
Construction at the Michigan site will begin in Q4 2014, and is expected to bring up to 350 local jobs once fully operational. Suniva chose Michigan, a state not particularly known for solar, due to its knowledgeable workforce and central location, according to Matt Card, vice president of global sales and marketing at Suniva. “Michigan has a highly skilled manufacturing workforce and thorough logistics network to transport modules, making it easy to ship east or west.”
The manufacturer has been steadily growing its U.S. presence. Just last year, it announced an expansion at its Norcross, Georgia facility, where it added nearly 50 employees and new equipment to keep up with demand.
Suniva’s business is about 50 percent commercial and industrial, 40 to 45 percent residential, and 5 percent utility-scale, according to Card. However its residential side has significantly increased in the past year, reflecting the significant uptick in the U.S. residential solar market.
Solar leasing company SolarCity also announced last month that it would enter the U.S. manufacturing game with its acquisition of high-efficiency cell maker Silevo and plans to build a 1-GW facility in New York. While SolarCity is one of Suniva’s customers, Card expects to maintain a healthy business relationship with the leasing company as it grows.
“The U.S. market in us is too big and obvious, and manufacturing will continue to grow. It is important to note that our competitors are not manufacturers,” said Card. “We are all here to offer an alternative power supply. As the renewable share increases and prices go down, there will be obvious benefits.”
Suniva attributes its main reason for opening a new facility to an increased demand for U.S.-made products in the past 18-24 months, according to Card. “There has been a solid demand as cost equations continue to balance out.” While this timeline neatly aligns with the U.S.-enforced tariffs on Chinese modules, Card said that the new ruling that may lower the tariffs would have little effect on business.
“There will be a short-term impact on pricing and supply, but not a long-term impact,” said Card. “American companies that operate smartly can produce an effective price point just like anywhere else in the world.”
Lead image: Solar panels via Shutterstock