Renewable energy is a top-of-mind topic for many business leaders globally, and solar module manufacturer Qcells is leading the way with solutions. The South Korea–headquartered company is one of the biggest manufacturers worldwide and launched a domestic production facility in Dalton in 2019 that produces 12,000 solar panels per day, with leadership citing easy access to a major coastal seaport, the world’s busiest airport, and a skilled workforce as key factors. Earlier this year, Qcells announced an investment of $171 million to expand its Whitfield County operations with a new 1.4-gigawatt facility, adding 470 new jobs to bring the total Georgia-based staff to more than 1,000. The new factory could be up and running as soon as Q2 2023. Here, Qcells North America Head of Market Strategy and Public Affairs Scott Moskowitz offers insight into how the company is primed for future growth and how its location is a lynchpin for success.
Why did Qcells choose Georgia to build and expand its operation in the United States?
The U.S. is Qcells’ largest market, and we have a long-haul commitment to this industry. Georgia specifically was chosen due to its diverse workforce, transportation network, and proximity to solar demand.
How big is the sustainable energy opportunity? What do you think is on the horizon for the next 10 years?
The clean energy sector is destined to grow. Solar is among the lowest-cost forms of energy available anywhere, and recent focus by both political parties to re-shore production in critical industries has changed the environment for U.S. manufacturing. The solar manufacturing provisions included in the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act are among the most significant such policies enacted anywhere in the world.
How has having access to a skilled workforce impacted the decision to invest $171 million in a new solar module manufacturing facility in Dalton, creating some 470 new jobs in Whitfield County?
Workforce is a critical topic for manufacturers. We’ve benefitted from the skilled labor that has long existed in northwest Georgia as well as the proximity to numerous universities. We make a product that enables folks to lower their electricity cost and minimize carbon emissions. People want to be a part of that mission.
Do you have any partnerships with Georgia universities or technical colleges for workforce development? How has that been helpful?
Yes. We have partnerships with Georgia Northwestern Technical College, Chattahoochee Technical College, Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State, Mercer, and Morehouse College. These universities have been critical partners in recruiting workforce and getting the message out about our company.
How has Georgia’s leadership and the state business community played a part in your growth here?
The state has been a critical partner. Georgia has done an excellent job attracting new businesses to the state and supporting them as they grow. We have received tremendous support from elected officials on both sides of the aisle, as everyone agrees and is committed to solidifying Georgia’s place as an advanced manufacturing hub. Our local and state officials have written numerous letters and articles of support across a variety of topics, and our two senators introduced and passed landmark legislation called the Solar Energy Manufacturing for America Act that will help supercharge clean energy manufacturing in the decade ahead.