New JM Steel manufacturing plant will have a Nextracker tracker production line

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Nextracker and JM Steel, a division of JENNMAR USA, have announced a partnership under which a dedicated solar tracker production line has been built on the campus of a new Steel Dynamics manufacturing facility near Corpus Christi, Texas.

According to Nextracker, the new facility manufactures next-generation, low-carbon tracker components to be used in solar projects throughout the southern US. Facilitated in part due to the uncertainty of the global supply chain and rising international shipping costs, Nextracker made the strategic decision to focus on manufacturing in the United States. The new Nextracker production line will support about 50 new local direct jobs and provide multi-GW of solar tracker capacity annually, and is set to begin operations today.

Image: Nextracker

While low-carbon steel manufacturing reads like an oxymoron, Steel Dynamics utilizes electric arc furnaces in its manufacturing, which have been described as a “next-generation” process for steel fabrication, one which can lead to electric arc furnace facilities being up to 75% less carbon-intensive than traditional blast furnaces.

“All of the steel being used to make Nextracker’s products will be made with SDI’s newest electric arc furnace technology, which utilizes recycled or scrap steel as a raw material for a lower carbon footprint which is a perfect fit for Nextracker’s solar products,” said Tony Calandra, CEO of JM Steel and JENNMAR USA.

Securing steel fabrication to alleviate supply chain concerns and shipping volatility is an emerging trend in the tracker and racking space, one that could hold momentum if the aforementioned market concerns persist. Another prominent name in the space, Terrasmart fabricates its own steel structures in house. In a prior interview with pv magazine, Terrasmart President, Ed McKiernan said that such an approach allows his company to switch up their operations “on a dime,” and to accommodate design and timeline changes for customers.

One issue that Terrasmart has run into, however, is sourcing the steel to enable this process, as steel supply markets have had historically high demand, and can be difficult to navigate as a somewhat-newer entrant. In partnering with an existing name in the industry, Nextracker should be able to forgo some of these sourcing concerns, while still keeping overall costs down and product innovation flexible.

“Customers want protection from steel and logistics cost volatility, and logistics delays associated with shipping, containers, and ports,” said Dan Shugar, founder and CEO of Nextracker. “We are migrating to domestic production to stabilize pricing and achieve superior on-time delivery for our customers.”

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