Proponents of alternative energy sources are excited about growing interest in domestic manufacturing related to renewable energy sources, especially solar. For years now, the supply of solar-related products, such as solar panels, has mostly come from Asia, but that may change in the coming years if the United States government has its way.
According to an Associated Press article by Jeff Amy, “Qcells, a unit of South Korea’s Hanwha Group…has begun production at a huge new solar panel factory in Georgia” that can “now turn out enough solar panels to generate 5.1 gigawatts of power yearly…almost 40% of U.S. solar panel capacity.”
In “what the company describes as the largest solar investment in American history,” “Qcells opened its first factory in 2019 and an even larger plant in phases since.” The first facility in Dalton recently added 510 new jobs, which will bring the total to more than 1,800 jobs by early next year.
The second facility under construction in nearby Cartersville will employ approximately 2,000 people. These plants are part of a $2.5 billion plan the company announced this past January, shortly after passage of the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which targets climate issues and healthcare law.
Seeking to boost domestic investment in alternative energy, the IRA earmarked $10 billion in tax credits for construction of new solar manufacturing facilities. The law also set aside billions more in subsidies for manufacturers who make related components, such as solar panels, electric batteries, and wind turbines.
Despite these new investments, experts warn that domestic solar manufacturing remains dependent upon favorable federal policy decisions. Why are they concerned? Industry experts point to a flood of cheap solar panels imported from Asia as an ongoing threat to domestic manufacturing.
Mike Carr, executive director of the Solar Energy Manufacturers for America Coalition, “argues Chinese component makers are pushing out cheap modules from southeast Asian factories, tanking panel prices to ensure Chinese dominance and smother U.S. manufacturing.” In the past, the U.S. government has responded with “anti-dumping tariffs on panels made in China and Taiwan.”
As domestic solar production grows and expands, however, industry leaders hope to establish a fully-integrated domestic supply chain for the complete range of solar components. For example, solar panels are “assembled from solar cells most commonly made from wafers cut from ingots of polysilicon,” which are imported from Asia.
The Qcells facility being built in Cartersville, Georgia, however, will “take polysilicon refined in Washington state and make ingots, wafers and solar cells — in addition to 3.3 gigawatts of solar modules.” Industry leaders believe bolstering the solar component supply chain, combined with continued support from government intervention, will help domestic solar manufacturing stay competitive with overseas competition.
Of course, this growth is not without obstacles. The number of new workers with solar skills will require both upskilling of current workers and training current students with the solar-specific skills they’ll need to be successful in the jobs on the horizon.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be an expert at training to implement a new program. The experts at Amatrol have been working hand-in-hand with industry and educational institutions for years to design training programs featuring eLearning curriculum and hands-on experience with trainers equipped with industrial components workers will encounter on the job.
For example, check out the following solar training systems available from Amatrol:
- Alternative Energy Learning System – Solar (850-AES): Teaches aspiring solar technicians the knowledge and skills they need to prepare for portions of the solar certifications offered by such certifying groups as NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) and ETA (Electronics Technicians Association).
- Solar PV Installation Learning System (950-SPF1): Teaches students the installation and commissioning of grid interactive and stand-alone photovoltaic systems for commercial and residential applications. It also supports the learning necessary to prepare for portions of NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) certification and helps to prepare students for successful employment in the solar photovoltaic industry field.
- Solar PV Troubleshooting Learning Systems (950-SPT1): Allows students to develop the specialized skills and knowledge needed for working with the common types of PV systems. The 950-SPT1 teaches students connection, operation, programming, and troubleshooting of AC/DC and grid-connected systems.
- Solar Thermal Troubleshooting – Closed-Loop Learning System (950-STCL1): Allows learners to develop the specialized skills and knowledge needed for working with the two common types of thermal closed-loop systems: drainback and pressurized. Solar Thermal Troubleshooting teaches learners about connecting, operating, programming, and troubleshooting both drainback and pressurized systems.
- Solar Thermal Installation Learning System (950-STF1): Teaches students the installation and commissioning of closed loop and open loop solar thermal systems for commercial and residential applications. Students will learn how to install systems by selecting, preparing, mounting and connecting solar thermal components using copper tubing, PVC piping, and electrical wiring.
- Solar Thermal Troubleshooting – Open-Loop Learning System (950-STOL1): Examines how to connect, operate, program, and troubleshoot open-loop solar thermal systems. The combination of in-depth, multimedia curriculum with real-world equipment gives learners hands-on experience with both drainback and pressurized open-loop solar thermal systems.
For more information about how Amatrol can help you upskill your current workers, contact an expert at Amatrol today!