Does New Solar Panel Manufacturing In the U.S. Equal Jobs?
With all the talk of trade tariffs and barriers the global trading picture is confusing. There will be winners and losers in each country if the trade war continues to escalate. In the U.S. with new trade tariffs on imported solar panels tens of thousands of jobs are in jeopardy in the solar sales and installation business.
Let’s assume that this move was cleverly designed to put pressure on external solar power companies to create manufacturing jobs in the U.S. and to stimulate new investment internally into manufacturing. Solar panel manufacturing is a highly automated process, so robots and automation do most of the work. The industry is moving to using fewer and fewer workers in the process of solar panel and module fabrication.
To put this into perspective, here is a video from 3 years ago of an LG solar manufacturing process. As robots get smarter less workers will be needed to manufacture new solar panels in the years to come. The price of solar panels is being driven down in this way, but so are the number of jobs. The ones that remain will be highly skilled technical jobs for technicians and engineers.
The featured picture is from the LG solar-factory in Gumi, South Korea.
LG is the first company to announce they are going to invest in US solar panel production.
Just recently LG Electronics announced plans for a new solar module assembly plant in Huntsville, Ala. The new factory will create about 160 new full-time jobs, increasing LG’s Huntsville employment by 60 percent to more than 400 workers.
LG is investing $28 million to establish the new factory with two production lines on LG’s 48-acre campus in Huntsville, where the company has had operations for four decades. This underscores the company’s commitment to investing in America and to driving environmental sustainability.
Here is the official press release.
Starting in early 2019, the new plant is expected to produce 500 megawatts of high-performance solar panels annually. “That’s over a million solar panels a year,” said Soon Kwon, global president of the LG B2B (Business-to-Business) Company.
LG is one of the top providers of solar panels for the residential market in the United States, and the new solar plant will help LG better serve its U.S. customers, explained Kwon. “This demonstrates our commitment to being a long-term leader in the U.S. solar industry. LG’s investment in U.S. manufacturing is consistent with the Administration’s goal of creating U.S. jobs,” he said.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey welcomed with open arms LG’s significant expansion in the state. “LG has a long history as a leading corporate citizen in Alabama. Now, LG is launching our state’s first solar manufacturing plant, which represents a major milestone both for Alabama and for the company. We look forward to seeing where this great partnership takes us in the future,” she said.
LG selected Alabama after conducting a competitive, multistate search. Attractive state and local incentives were key to LG’s decision to locate the new solar production operations in Huntsville. “We’re thrilled that LG selected Huntsville for its new solar panel assembly plant, because the company considered many other locations for this project,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “LG is a world-class company, and its decision represents a powerful endorsement of Alabama’s advantages and its workforce.”
Calling LG “a strong community partner in Huntsville for many decades,” Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said, “Our relationship has deepened through visits to the company’s headquarters in Korea and successful advancements in technological innovation. LG chose Huntsville as the place to do business in the U.S. more than 30 years ago, and they’ve chosen Huntsville again as a place to prosper with the new solar module plant.”
New Solar Panel Manufacturing Jobs Badly Needed In The U.S.
“With the expansion of LG Electronics in the Huntsville-Madison County, Alabama region, LG will utilize the latest technology in a high-growth market to produce these solar panels,” said Dale Strong, Chairman of the Madison County Commission. “The diversity and worldwide recognition of the Madison County economy demonstrates we continue to thrive with our finest hours still ahead.”
The new factory will initially assemble LG’s famous “NeON 2” series 60-cell modules, which are high-performance solar panels that generate over 17 percent more power than most conventional 60-cell panels (340 Watts-per-panel rating versus 290W). Light-induced degradation is reduced significantly in these panels to maximize performance and maintain maximum potential power output for the life of the modules.
The company’s new solar panel module plant builds on LG’s legacy of leadership in Huntsville. After starting as the company’s first U.S. manufacturing subsidiary in 1981, Huntsville became the home of LG’s service division in 1987, which expanded over the years to support LG’s growing presence in the United States. Today, as the headquarters location for North American service operations, LG Huntsville includes the technical call center, service training center, field service operations and parts warehouse.
New U.S. Solar Panel Manufacturing Plant
The U.S. solar factory announcement coincides with other major LG jobs initiatives in the United States. LG is finishing construction of its new million-square-foot washing machine plant in Clarksville, Tenn. This $250-million factory will create 600 new jobs there when washer production starts in the fourth quarter. Later this year, LG will open an advanced electric vehicle components factory in Hazel Park, Mich., and expanded R&D center in Troy, Mich., creating nearly 300 new jobs there. And construction is under way for the new LG North American Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., a $300-million project that is expected to open in 2019.
About the LG B2B Company
The LG Electronics Business-to-Business company is a trusted business partner offering innovative products and solutions for customers worldwide. With heavy investments in future growth engines such as high efficiency solar solutions, energy storage systems and energy management solutions, LG is committed to returning strong value to its customers. Through unique offerings such as industry-leading LG OLED signage displays and video walls with nearly invisible bezels, LG has made itself a formidable name in the commercial sector. For more information on the LG B2B Company, visit www.LG.com/business.
About LG Electronics USA
LG Electronics USA, Inc., based in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., is the North American subsidiary of LG Electronics, Inc., a $55 billion global force and technology leader in solar energy solutions, home appliances, consumer electronics and mobile communications. LG Electronics sells a range of stylish and innovative home appliances, home entertainment products, mobile phones, commercial displays, air conditioning systems and solar panels in the United States, all under LG’s “Life’s Good” marketing theme. LG Electronics is a 2018 ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year-Sustained Excellence. For more news and information on LG Electronics, please visit www.LG.com.
Gordon's expertise in the area of industrial energy efficiency and alternative energy. He is an experienced electrical engineer with a Masters degree in Alternative Energy technology. He is the co-founder of several renewable energy media sites including Solar Thermal Magazine.