VP Harris announces huge Qcells solar panel deal during Georgia visit

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Deal for millions of Peach State-built panels to supply community solar expansion in several states

DALTON, Ga. — Vice President Kamala Harris visited an expanding solar panel factory in northwest Georgia on Thursday where she announced an order for millions of Peach State-built panels as she touted how federal climate and economic efforts are combining to create jobs in rural areas.

Harris toured the Qcells plant near I-75 in Whitfield County, one of two northwest Georgia locations where the South Korean company is expanding its solar panel production. The Qcells’ Dalton expansion and a new facility in Bartow County, combined, represent the largest ever investment in clean energy manufacturing in U.S. history, company leaders and elected officials say.

The $2.5 billion expansion, which will result in 2,500 additional jobs, is the type of investment Harris and the White House are highlighting in its “Investing in America” tour to promote President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda ahead of a likely 2024 re-election campaign.

In Dalton, Harris lauded a historic commitment from Qcells and Virginia-based commercial solar company Summit Ridge Energy to deploy 1.2 gigawatts of community solar power, which is enough electricity to power 140,000 homes and businesses. She said it’s the largest community solar purchase in U.S. history.

“This order was made possible by investments that we made to expand American manufacturing and increase demand for clean energy,” Harris said.

Community solar projects are those in which when residents, businesses or other groups pool resources to deploy and connect to solar arrays built in other locations. Participants buy or lease access to the installations and often receive power directly from the arrays or credits off their utility bills. There are several such arrangements in Georgia.

The commitment from Qcells and Summit Ridge Energy requires them to build 2.5 million solar panels, which Harris said is roughly eight months’ worth of output from Qcells’ current Dalton facility. The bulk of those panels will be installed in projects in Illinois, Maryland and Maine, but specific projects are still being assessed.

Harris said the administration has helped grow jobs, strengthened the economy, addressed climate change, boosted infrastructure spending and encouraged domestic manufacturing. Biden was in Minnesota on Monday to trumpet how those policies have breathed new life into blue-collar communities.

Dalton, famous as the flooring capital of the world, is in a deep-red corner of Georgia, a bastion of former President Donald Trump and the home district of conservative firebrand U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

“It’s somewhat ironic that this investment that’s taking place in Dalton is taking place in a district represented by someone who not only didn’t vote for the tax incentives that are responsible for bringing this but wants to repeal them,” Ali Zaidi, White House National Climate Advisor, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee called the Biden and Harris agenda as “out-of-touch,” and slammed the Democrats for “crushing Peach State families and workers with higher prices, lower savings, and tighter incomes.”

Biden won Georgia in 2020 by about 12,000 votes, and Georgia is expected to be a key battleground again in 2024.

“All across America, there are communities like Dalton, communities full of people with incredible ambition and aspiration, who just need an opportunity to show what they can do,” Harris said. “President Biden and I are fighting to give people that opportunity.”

The Peach State has become a leader across the clean tech sector, especially in the solar panel and electric vehicle industries. Hyundai Motor Group, Rivian, SK Innovation, Freyr Battery and Qcells are among the EV and clean tech manufacturers that announced billion-dollar facilities across Georgia over the past few years. Kia, a subsidiary of Hyundai, announced Wednesday it will manufacture a new electric SUV at its existing West Point factory, starting in 2024.

“Georgia is ground zero for building a clean energy economy and building industries of the future,” Biden said in a statement following Kia’s announcement. “Our investments in America are creating good-paying jobs, unleashing private sector investments, and producing products Made in Georgia and Made in America.”

For years, solar panel production has been dominated by China. Qcells’ expansion makes it the largest solar panel manufacturing operation in the Western Hemisphere and brings the entire chain of panel production onto U.S. soil, experts say.

Georgia Republicans, lead by Gov. Brian Kemp, and prominent statewide Democrats have each claimed credit for the state’s clean energy manufacturing surge. The Democrats’ signature health and climate bill known as the Inflation Reduction Act included historic investments to fight climate change and promote domestic clean tech manufacturing. It also included legislation championed by U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, known as the Solar Energy Manufacturing for America Act, that is intended to boost solar panel production.

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

“Working closely alongside Qcells, my solar manufacturing law continues to expand opportunity in Georgia and nationwide,” Ossoff said in a statement. “This new partnership will help deploy Georgia-made solar technology across the country.”

The state and local governments have aggressively incentivized clean technology companies with billions of dollars in tax abatements, job tax credits and free infrastructure.

This coverage is supported by a partnership with 1Earth Fund, the Kendeda Fund and Journalism Funding Partners. You can learn more and support our climate reporting by donating at ajc.com/donate/climate/

Peach State Panels

Vice President Kamala Harris announced Qcells in Dalton will manufacture 2.5 million solar panels for community projects across the country, the largest commitment of this type in American history. Harris was in Georgia as part of the “Investing in America” tour to promote President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda ahead of a likely 2024 re-election campaign.


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