The last two years have not been easy for Georgia’s solar manufacturers and installers. Thanks to trade disputes with foreign producers, the availability of panels has been strictly managed, while shifting policies on the federal and state levels have left the market in uncertainty. The lingering disruptions that COVID-19 has had on supply chains has caused prices to continually rise causing further delays to some projects and the cancellation of others. But with Congress passing and President Biden signing the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), clean energy advocates are pointing out that Georgia is the best positioned state to capitalize on the sunny days ahead for the solar industry.
“This legislation really marks a turning point,” said Scott Moskowitz, the head of market strategy and public affairs at Qcells, whose existing Dalton facility is the largest solar plant in the Western Hemisphere. “It has policies that will help to directly incentivize new investment and create scale that is going to make the U.S. globally competitive.”
The Democrats’ landmark bill aimed at slowing climate change, lowering health care and prescription drug costs, and revamping the corporate tax code was signed by President Joe Biden on Tuesday, August 16th. One of the major focuses of the legislation is to address the reliance of the global solar supply chain on China, which holds more than 80 percent of shares in the various materials needed to build solar panels. The IRA would provide $10 billion in tax credits for building new solar manufacturing facilities, plus $30 billion for U.S. manufacturers to make components for solar panels, batteries, wind turbines and to process the minerals needed for renewable energy technologies and electric vehicles.
Opponents of the bill, primarily Republican lawmakers, claim that this legislation will only fuel further inflation and hurt our state’s economy, but producers like Qcells report projections of even more growth because of it – even recently announcing a $171 million expansion near its existing Dalton plant. “It really directly encourages scale and is going to turn the U.S. into a world leader in clean energy manufacturing,” Moskowitz said. “From Qcells’ perspective, we’re currently expanding in Dalton and are also looking at a variety of other growth projects that are made possible by Senator Warnock and Ossoff’s legislation.”
The bill also intends to direct billions of dollars into spurring both large and small scale projects throughout the state. For homeowners and business owners alike, the IRA will extend a 30 percent income tax credit for rooftop solar for 10 years, while offering a credit for battery systems that store excess energy when the sun isn’t shining. Companies continue to study the impacts the bill will have as time passes, with advocates calling for the pairing of these new federal policies with the state level incentives Georgia has tested out in the past.