Korean solar panel firm to hire 470 people at $171m plant in Georgia

DALTON, Ga. (AP) — A Korean solar panel maker said Thursday it will expand its presence in Georgia, building a new $171 million factory next to an existing plant in Dalton.

The new plant will open in the first half of 2023 and employ 470 people, Qcells, a unit of Hanwha Solutions, said in a written statement. The company already has 750 workers at its existing factory in northwest Georgia.

In 2019, Qcells opened a 300,000 square foot (28,000 square meter) factory in Dalton that assembles 1.7 gigawatts of solar modules each year. The company said it was the largest solar panel factory in the Western Hemisphere. The new plant will have a capacity of 1.4 gigawatts. Once the second factory is built, Qcells will control nearly a third of all US solar module assemblies, the company said.

Qcells said it sells 24% of all solar modules installed on US homes and 21% of all modules installed on commercial buildings. The company also describes itself as a leading supplier of large solar farms that supply electricity to utilities.

The company had announced plans for a US expansion earlier this month without saying where.

Qcells is paying Whitfield County $1.7 million for 30 acres (12 hectares) next to its existing factory, county commission chairman Jevin Jensen said told the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Carl Campbell, executive director of the Dalton-Whitfield Joint Development Authority, said Qcells would pay new employees at least $17 an hour.

Qcells could claim various tax breaks, including an income tax credit that would allow it to deduct $3,000 per job annually from state income tax – up to $7 million over five years. — as long as workers earn at least $30,628 a year.

The solar power plant is another big Korean investment in Georgia. Last week, Hyundai Motor Group announced a $5.5 billion electric vehicle and battery plant near Savannah. The SK Group has built a $2.6 billion electric battery factory and 3,000 jobs near the town of Commerce.

“Georgia has become the heartland of clean energy manufacturing in America, and we are proud to contribute to the state’s advanced manufacturing economy,” Qcells CEO Justin Lee said in a statement.

Republican Governor Brian Kemp’s administration has cultivated ties with South Korea: Kemp said he visited Hanwha officials during a trade mission to the country in 2019.

“The State of Georgia and Korea have enjoyed an exceptional partnership for decades, underpinned by a dedication to building relationships,” Kemp said in a statement.

US Senator Jon Ossoff, a Democrat, told reporters on Thursday that he had met with Hanwha officials in South Korea last year and encouraged them to invest more, saying the additional production of solar panels in the US States was reducing dependence on China.

“We cannot continue to rely on China for solar panels,” Ossoff said. “Our access to this technology is a matter of national security and energy independence. So, by increasing our domestic solar power manufacturing capacity and doing it at home in Georgia, we are strengthening our national security and energy independence.

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