Texas Is Going To Send Lots Of Solar Modules All Over The USA
Oh the irony, it burns. Public officials in Texas have been scrambling to protect oil and gas interests, but the rug keeps getting pulled out from under their feet. In the latest development, Texas will soon host a massive new factory that aims to produce 5 gigawatts’ worth of solar modules every year, and the wheels are already in motion to send them all over the US.
More Solar Panels Made In The USA
Solar modules are the building blocks for solar panels, so it remains to be seen how many solar panels will be produced from 5 gigawatts’ worth of modules. Still, it’s a lot.
The Brookshire plant is significant not only on account of its size. It is also the first — and probably not the last — US factory to be built by the leading Indian solar company Waaree Energies, the flagship branch of Waaree Group.
Waaree Energies bills itself as the biggest solar module manufacturer in India, with a current total of 12 gigawatts per year under its roof.
The Brookshire factory will give Waaree’s global footprint a big bump up. The plan is to get the Brookshire factory up and running at 3 gigawatts by the end of 2024, increasing to a total of 5 gigawatts by 2027.
The new factory is also a huge step up for the Texas solar manufacturing sector. The last time we checked, the US Department of Energy listed 14 manufacturers in Texas, but most of them produce racks, inverters, and other components.
The only factory currently producing solar modules in Texas is the San Antonio firm Mission Solar, which credits the Inflation Reduction Act for enabling it to scale up from 300 megawatts to a total of 1 gigawatt by 2024.
Things seem to be popping in Texas. The IRA is also credited with motivating at least one other solar module manufacturer, SEG Solar, to set up shop in the state. Last spring SEG announced that it closed on a 2-gigawatt facility near Houston, where it will also relocate its global headquarters.
Texas Juice The Solar Panel Market All Over The USA
Circling back around to Waaree, the Texas venture is also significant because it will enable the firm to ramp up its already-considerable presence in the US.
“Till date Waaree has supplied over 4 GW of modules from its current Indian facility to U.S. customers,” the company noted in a press release on December 28.
“Waaree’s ambitious U.S. expansion benefits from the long-term supply agreement with SB Energy. Waaree will supply multi-GWs of solar modules to SB Energy over the next 5 years,” they add.
“Waaree is fostering a solar manufacturing ecosystem in Texas, a state that has taken a leading position in clean energy manufacturing,” they emphasized.
The press release also cited SB Energy’s co-CEO, Abhijeet Sathe, who affirmed that SB is “delighted to expand our U.S. supply chain with Waaree.”
The SB connection is where things get interesting. On November 30, SB announced that it sealed a $2.4 billion financing deal to support the construction of four new utility scale solar projects, totaling 1.3 gigawatts.
SB credits the IRA with juicing its business. “The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is further catalyzing the U.S. clean energy industry through expansion of tax credits and new approaches to tax equity, including transferability, that SB Energy continues to explore,” the company observed.
Texas’s Solar Panels Are Coming For Your Fossil Fuels
The four SB projects also reflect the equity principles underlying the Biden administration’s energy policies. As described by SB Energy, all four of the new projects will be hosted in communities that lost jobs due to fossil energy closures and retirements.
The project timelines apparently don’t mesh with Waaree’s plans for Texas, but SB does plan to source structural steel for the four new arrays from factories in Texas and Georgia. The solar modules will come from the Ohio factory of the US firm First Solar.
As for where those four new arrays will be located, Texas is a pretty good guess. SB already has several utility-scale arrays and storage projects up and running or in the pipeline in the state, and their press release mentions that Google has committed to purchasing about 75% of the combined output of the projects for its new data center at Red Oak, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The business news organization Dallas Innovates dropped another clue in September, when it covered a welcoming ceremony for the new data center.
“Over the past year, Google has signed power purchase agreements with Ørsted and SB Energy to add new wind and solar power to the electricity grid and help bring additional clean energy jobs to Texas,” Dallas Innovates reported.
That likely means the 150-megawatt power purchase deal with Ørsted for the Helena Wind Farm in Bee County, Texas, and a whopping 942-megawatt power purchase agreement for four new SB solar projects located in Texas, which SB announced last year.
Who’s Afraid Of The ESG?
CleanTechnica is reaching out to confirm that those are the same four projects mentioned in the $2.4 billion financing package. We’re also interested to know more about SB’s plans for deploying Waaree solar modules elsewhere in the US.
The Texas connection is of particular interest because leading Texas officials, including Governor Gregg Abbott and Attorney General Tom Paxton, have been front and center in a partisan, Republican-led fight to thwart investment in renewable energy projects through both legislation and legal action.
So far, the effort seems to be aimed more at currying votes by raising hackles over “woke capitalism” and ESG (environment, social, governance) principles, rather than throwing effective obstacles in the way of renewable energy investment.
A case in point is that welcoming ceremony covered by Dallas Innovate. Even though Google has made it clear that kicking fossil energy to the curb is its data center goal, US Senator and climate change denier John Cornyn — whose League of Conservation Voters lifetime score of 7% is no shocker — enthusiastically took part in the event along with US Representative Jake Ellzey (lifetime score 8%).
More to the point, leading global financial institutions continue to work the green angles whether or not they use “ESG” in a sentence. Last week, for example, the US renewable energy developer Pattern Energy closed on a massive $11 billion deal for a new wind farm and transmission line featuring Green Loan Principles.
The financial firms behind the $2.4 billion SB Energy deal are also squeezing fossil energy out of the US power generation profile, with or without ESG.
SB did not mention ESG in its November 30 press release, but the firms that enabled it to nail $800 million in tax equity for the four projects are not shy about it. The list includes JP Morgan, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley Renewables Inc., and Truist Bank.
For the record, seven other firms — MUFG, Mizuho Americas, ING, SMBC, CIBC, Fifth Third Bank, and Société Générale raised the balance in term and construction debt.
See more coverage of Texas renewable energy news here.
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Image credit: Photovoltaic array courtesy of Waaree Energies.
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