Solar giant Qcells says Dalton factory expansion is complete

The factory will be able to turn out 30,000 solar panels a day with a workforce of 1,800

Solar panel manufacturer Qcells announced Wednesday that it has completed the expansion of its existing Dalton factory, the largest plant of it kind in the Western Hemisphere.

The new manufacturing muscle means the factory will now be able to produce more than 5.1 gigawatts of solar panels each year — 30,000 solar panels a day. To keep pace, Qcells said it has added 510 new jobs. By early next year, the factory will employ 1,800 people.

The expansion was part of a $2.5 billion plan the company — which is owned by the Korean conglomerate Hanwha Solutions — announced in January to grow its footprint in Georgia, just months after the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), President Biden’s signature climate and healthcare law. The law offers $10 billion in tax credits for building new solar manufacturing facilities, plus billions more for manufacturers that make components for solar panels, batteries, and wind turbines in the U.S.

In addition to the Dalton facility, which first opened in 2019, the company is building a second factory about 35 miles south in Cartersville that’s expected to employ another 2,000 workers. That plant, which is set to open in 2024, will boast a fully integrated domestic supply chain for all components, from solar ingots and wafers to cells and finished panels.

Once both the Cartersville and Dalton plants are online, Qcells says it will be able to build 8.4 gigawatts of panels each year in Georgia. That’s equal to about 40% of all the new solar capacity installed nationwide last year and enough to power 1.3 million homes.

Over the last three years, Georgia has emerged as a major player in the global transition to clean energy and electric vehicles (EV). Along with Qcells, massive EV factories under construction by Hyundai Motor Group and Rivian are set to create more than 15,000 more new jobs in the state. Meanwhile, an ecosystem of EV battery manufacturers and parts suppliers is also springing up to meet the new demand.

The politics of who deserves credit for the projects and they jobs they’ll bring to Georgia has become a point of contention between Georgia Democrats and Republicans.

Georgia’s two U.S. Senators, Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, who cast decisive votes to pass the IRA in a closely divided Congress last year, said in statements that Qcells’ expansion demonstrates the law’s impact.

“Our state is emerging as the advanced energy capital of the nation, thanks to federal infrastructure and manufacturing policies that are benefiting Georgia more than any other state in the country,” Ossoff said.

Gov. Brian Kemp, meanwhile, touted the relationship his economic development team has built with Qcells.

“Out of all the places Qcells could have gone, they chose to operate and expand here in Georgia because of our unrivaled assets and the competitive package we put together in 2019,” Kemp said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Qcells CEO Justin Lee said in a statement that the federal incentives and Georgia’s economic development team both helped secure the company’s investment, and added that their continued support will be critical in the years to come.

“As we build new solar technology from Dalton and prepare for the start of Cartersville, it is critical that our local to federal leaders continue to work not only with us, but the larger industry to ensure our collective investments deliver for communities for decades to come,” Lee said.

After cheap solar panels made in China put many American companies out of business in recent years, U.S. solar manufacturing is attempting a comeback.

Just last week, one such victim of Chinese solar dominance — Suniva — said it will reopen its shuttered Norcross factory and create as many as 240 jobs. The company said its revival was enabled by the new federal tax incentives and growing demand for solar as a clean energy source and climate change-fighting tool.

At an event Wednesday in Georgia announcing millions in new funding for electric grid improvements, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said Qcells’ growth shows the Biden administration’s policies are working to build energy independence.

“In the United States, we’re going to have a strategy to be able to build these products in this country,” Granholm said. “We’re not going to rely upon getting energy or energy products from countries whose values we don’t share.”

A note of disclosure

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

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