A consortium of large US solar developers have committed to spend more than $6 billion on domestically produced panels in a move aimed at boosting the small American manufacturing sector.
The group, which includes AES Corp. and Clearway Energy Group, is seeking manufacturers that will be able to supply as much as 7 gigawatts of solar modules annually starting in 2024, according to a statement Tuesday.
The new initiative is a sign that longstanding market trends may shift. The vast majority of solar panels installed in the US are imported from Asia, but several trade disputes have roiled the industry, complicating development plans for many installers.
A key reason why many solar manufacturers don’t make panels in the US: little certainty that they’ll be able to sell modules at a premium for at least five years, according to Jenny Chase, lead solar analyst at BloombergNEF. “The devil will be in the price and the detail: ultimately the products will presumably still have to be good quality and not priced too much higher than modules made in the current integrated manufacturing hubs in China and Southeast Asia,” she said by email.
The US solar industry has been gripped by a decade of trade tensions over the sources of the panels that will power its grids. A tariff dispute has paralyzed developers this year, though that may be easing. Domestic developers hope a two-year ban on new duties imported from four Southeast Asian nations will help reopen the market—a move President Joe Biden announced this month that has infuriated some domestic manufacturers.
The other members of the so-called US Solar Buyer Consortium are Cypress Creek Renewables and D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments.