Climate bill deals a blow to US solar production – First Solar CEO

A solar field is seen at the First Solar site in Perrysburg, Ohio on July 8, 2022. Photo taken with a drone. REUTERS/Megan Jelinger/Files

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July 19 (Reuters) – The collapse last week of legislation providing subsidies for domestic production of solar panels is a blow to nascent efforts to wean the solar industry from a major dependence on solar power. China, the chief executive of America’s largest solar panel maker said Monday. .

In an interview, First Solar Inc (FSLR.O) CEO Mark Widmar said that without the Democratic-backed climate change bill, manufacturers had no incentive to build equipment factories. solar in the United States. Read more

“Where we are now, there is no policy, there is no direction, there is no indication that anyone is investing here in the United States in solar manufacturing.”

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The lack of a national supply chain for solar panels, a fast-growing industry that is key to meeting President Joe Biden’s climate change goals, is a growing problem for the industry. Over the past two years, major solar projects have been delayed due to pandemic-related supply chain disruptions, import tariff threats and increased border control due to concerns over links to forced labour.

The Widmar company, which manufactures panels in Ohio and Asia, benefits from a different technology from the silicon-based products that dominate the market. As a result, solar developers have increasingly sought out First Solar panels, which are not subject to tariffs.

First Solar will not build its next plant in the United States, Widmar said, calling the Biden administration’s efforts to boost solar manufacturing insufficient.

“If the actions taken by the administration created momentum, you would see that in the market, you would see announcements made for new factories,” he said.

“Instead, you see the opposite,” Widmar added, pointing to the closure this year of LG’s solar plant in Alabama.

The Biden administration has said it wants clean energy technology to be produced domestically and last week announced $56 million in new funding aimed at boosting domestic manufacturing. In June, Biden also invoked the Defense Production Act to boost home solar manufacturing.

Widmar said those efforts “were not going to move the needle.”

About 90% of US solar panels are made overseas. Most of the industry’s raw material, polysilicon, is produced in China.

Project developers are increasingly recognizing that reliance on China is a major vulnerability to the industry’s long-term ambitions, Widmar said, pointing to the growing demand his company has seen this year.

“We’re going to be nearly complete through 2026 by the end of this year,” he said.

First Solar has been talking with project developers about ways to collaborate to solve the problem, possibly by jointly investing in new manufacturing. The two branches of industry have often found themselves at odds in policy debates, such as import tariffs.

“I’m a little worried that we’re missing a window of opportunity here for American manufacturing that we may never get back.”

Shares of First Solar closed at $67 Monday on the Nasdaq, up 2.6%.

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Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Aurora Ellis

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