Politics

Key Solar Panel Ingredient Is Made in the U.S.A. Again

A factory in Moses Lake, Wash., that shut down in 2019 will soon resume shipping a critical ingredient used in most solar panels that for years has been made almost exclusively in China.

The revival of the factory, which is owned by REC Silicon, could help achieve a longstanding goal of many American lawmakers and energy executives to re-establish a complete domestic supply chain for solar panels and reduce the world’s reliance on plants in China and Southeast Asia.

REC Silicon reopened the factory, which makes polysilicon, the building block for the large majority of solar panels, in November in partnership with Hanwha Qcells, a South Korean company that is investing billions of dollars in U.S. solar panel production. As part of the deal, Hanwha this month said it has become the largest shareholder in REC Silicon, which is based in Norway.

Executives at the companies say they reopened the factory in part because of incentives for domestic manufacturing in the Inflation Reduction Act, President Biden’s signature climate law. They expressed hope that their decision would also encourage other companies to revive production of a technology that was created in the United States about 70 years ago.

“As a whole, the United States was No. 1,” said Kurt Levens, chief executive of REC Silicon. “People forget that. You need more cell manufacturing that is outside China.”

Factories in China and Southeast Asia produce more than 95 percent of the solar panels that use polysilicon and most of the components that go into those devices. Chinese manufacturers are so dominant that most manufacturers in the United States had stopped producing polysilicon, including REC Silicon.

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