Commercial solar company Summit Ridge Energy (SRE) signed a module supply agreement with Qcells last week that was announced with much more fanfare than a typical solar panel purchase. First, the 1.2 GWs of solar panels is being touted as “the largest equipment purchase in history within the community solar industry.” Second, a “majority” of these panels will be produced in Qcells’ U.S. facilities.
The combo of community solar and domestic solar content — two big priorities of the Biden Administration — prompted a press conference appearance from vice president Kamala Harris:
“I am proud to be in Dalton, Ga., today to announce the largest community solar order in American history—made possible by the investments our Administration has made to expand American manufacturing and increase demand for clean energy,” she commented. “When we invest in climate, clean energy, and manufacturing, we invest in America. President Biden and I will continue to fight to create opportunity in every community.”
Purchase details | SRE will use the solar panels to develop more than 350 solar projects over the next four years, with the first 200 megawatts (MW) to be installed before the end of 2023. Once complete, the projects will generate enough clean electricity to power an estimated 140,000 homes and businesses, further cementing SRE’s position as the nation’s leading community solar provider. The agreement between SRE and Qcells also includes 20 MWh of energy storage.
IRA impact | Qcells’ U.S. solar manufacturing is getting a lot of attention in particular because of the Korean manufacturer’s plan to build out a polysilicon-to-solar-panel supply chain in the United States — made possible in large part because of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).
That legislation is also helping to accelerate SRE’s construction pipeline and support its investment in domestically manufactured solar infrastructure. Community solar projects are a method of providing solar to individuals and businesses who are not able to install solar panels because they are renters or lack the ability to go solar for other reasons. Typically, multiple customers can subscribe and receive a credit on their utility bill for their share of power produced, just as if the panels were on their own roof.
“Community solar is key to bringing affordable, reliable clean energy to communities large and small, urban and rural, low-income or working class. The Qcells and SRE partnership will ensure more communities can access the endless benefits solar power offers, including cleaner air, lower energy bills, and more jobs,” said Justin Lee, CEO of Qcells.
SRE’s solar projects may also qualify for IRA tax credits related to supporting Low to Moderate Income (LMI) households and many will be constructed in low-income and Energy Communities — a core component of SRE’s development strategy.
The agreement builds on the existing relationship between SRE and Qcells, including a recent partnership to deploy three standalone energy storage projects in New York City that total more than 46 MWh and utilize Qcells’ Geli energy management system.
“This partnership will allow SRE to provide clean energy to more American communities and businesses, while simultaneously supporting our domestic manufacturing industry. We must continue to find ways to bring affordable electricity to everyday Americans, particularly communities that have historically relied on fossil fuels,” said SRE’s CEO, Steve Raeder.
— Solar Builder magazine