A few weeks ago, we were wondering when the 3.8 GW of solar factories that had been announced in the United States last winter and spring were going to actually come online. Turns out, we didn’t need to wait long.
Coming only two days after JinkoSolar held an opening for its 400 MW solar panel factory in Jacksonville, Florida, Hanwha Q Cells has now announced that it has put its massive solar panel factory in Dalton, Georgia online. When fully ramped the factory will have the capacity to put out 1.7 GW of solar panels annually, and has already begun shipping modules.
Like JinkoSolar’s factory, this does not mean that the factory is running at full capacity yet. Hanwha Q Cells has let out very little information about the facility, but did state that the factory commenced production on February 1, and that it has already sent out its first shipments.
Hanwha Q Cells is making its Q.Peak Duo L-G5 modules (data sheet – .pdf) at the factory, which comprise 144 half-cut mono-PERC cells, given them an equivalent format of a traditional 72-cell module.
Such a large factory dedicated to half-cut modules is a major validation for the technology. Modules using half-cut cells have been manufactured by REC in Singapore for a number of years, but Hanwha Q Cells is one of the first other manufacturers to adopt this technology at a mass scale.
The cells additionally feature 6 busbars, and both this and the half-cut design suggest improved evacuation of electricity off the cell surface. This and the use of Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell (PERC) technology provide the modules with a high 380-395 watt rating, at module efficiencies that range from 18.9 to 19.6%. (Editor’s note: you can read more about the Q.ANTUM technology used in these cells in our previous coverage.)
These modules will be supplying one of the largest solar projects in the U.S. South, the 102.5 MWac Early County plant which is being developed by Silicon Ranch and which will be one of several that supplies power to a new Facebook data center in Newton, Georgia.
As mentioned earlier, this is the second of four large factories planned in the wake of the Section 201 tariffs and Republican-driven tax reform which has gone online. As for the others, the construction contractor who built LG’s 500 MW PV module factory in Huntsville, Alabama has stated that construction is complete, but it is unclear on what schedule tools will be installed and the facility will be online.
Additionally, First Solar is building a 1.2 GW PV module factory in Ohio to make its large-format Series 6 modules based on its cadmium telluride thin film technology. The company says that this factory will be producing modules by the end of 2019.
Altogether these four factories will increase the aggregate PV module capacity in the United States to around 5 GW. This represents around half of the nation’s current market for solar.
Hanwha Q Cells is one of 18 companies whose factory – either under construction or online – is featured in the United States which are featured in pv magazine USA’s PV module maker directory.