Vice President Harris announces record solar deal at Northwest Georgia factory
A rapidly expanding solar panel manufacturer in Northwest Georgia will help fulfill the country’s largest-ever community solar project, Vice President Kamala Harris announced in Dalton Thursday.
The agreement between Qcells, which is currently undergoing a $2.5 billion expansion of its northwest Georgia factories, and Virginia-based Summit Ridge Energy will see the assemblage of more than 2.5 million solar panels to provide 1.2 gigawatts of energy to power an estimated 140,000 homes and business.
Dalton has long been known as the carpet capital of the world, but in the aftermath of the housing market crash in 2008, it lost more jobs than any other metropolitan area in the country. The vice president said Qcells' investment in the area was a testament to the community as much as the company.
"In the face of incredible challenges, you showed incredible resilience," she said. "You invested in an industry of the future. You partnered with Qcells, a global clean energy company, to build a solar panel factory right here in Georgia. You worked around the clock to make this facility a success."
Now, the company that can churn out more than 12,000 solar panels a day is looking to triple its ouput with expanded factories coming online soon and has the record-setting order to fulfill in the coming months, which Harris said was emblematic of the future of American manufacturing.
"America, our beloved country, is a nation that I believe has always been powered by the ambition and aspirations of her people, the ambition and aspiration to see what can be unburdened by what has been," she said. "And not just to imagine a better future, but to build it, and that is the spirit that powers our nation."
DK Kim, vice chairman of Qcells parent company Hanwha group, thanked local, state and federal leaders for pushing policies that created an environment for the company to take root in Northwest Georgia and create fully American-made solar panels.
“Madame Vice President, you and the president have seized on the opportunity for clean energy to revitalize American manufacturing, and we are proud to play a part in this transformation,” he said. We also couldn't have opened these factories without the support of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and communities like Dalton, which welcomed us with open arms and a strong workforce. They saw the opportunity to make Georgia a leader in advanced manufacturing.”
In recent years, Georgia has seen a dramatic growth in environmentally friendly industries like solar power and electric vehicle manufacturing, with leaders from both parties separately praising the investments as the result of their respective policies.
Harris, President Joe Biden and other Democrats point to companies like Qcells as beneficiaries of and partners in sweeping climate and infrastructure legislation passed with a narrow majority secured by pivotal 2021 U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia.
Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff praised the news in a statement Thursday, highlighting a solar manufacturing law he authored that incentivizes domestic solar production as paving the way for Qcells’ expansion.
"Working closely alongside Qcells, my solar manufacturing law continues to expand opportunity in Georgia and nationwide,” Ossoff said. “This new partnership will help deploy Georgia-made solar technology across the country.”
On the other side of the aisle, Kemp has used the seemingly never-ending slew of massive economic development announcements from companies like Qcells to champion his conservative economic policies and Georgia’s thriving business-friendly economy that has become a national leader in many industries.
Kemp and other Republicans have largely focused more on the economic development and jobs impacts of the investments more than the underlying policies they support, though he vowed earlier this year to make Georgia the electric mobility capital of the country.
“Qcells has been a valued partner for the Peach State as we’ve experienced booming growth in next-gen jobs since they first opened in 2019, way before politicians in Washington started taking credit for it,” Kemp said in a statement Thursday. “Today’s announcement proves, once again, that the work we have been doing on the state and local level for years benefits all Georgians.”
The trip to Dalton is part of a multi-week “Investing in America” tour spearheaded by the Biden-Harris administration to tout the impacts of the Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS and Science Act and the bipartisan infrastructure law.
According to the White House, Georgia has seen more than $30 billion in private sector manufacturing investments since Biden took office, concentrated mainly in the clean energy and electric vehicle industries.
Earlier in the week, automaker Kia announced it would be manufacturing its newest electric vehicle, the EV9, at its West Point, Ga., plant with batteries that will eventually be made in a new SK On battery plant that will be built in nearby Bartow County.
Kia’s parent company Hyundai is also building another electric vehicle plant in Bryan County near Georgia’s coast, joining other recent record-setting economic developments like the Rivian electric vehicle plant east of Atlanta, another massive battery factory in Northeast Georgia and other EV part suppliers announcing investments in the state.