During the busy week of RE+ 2023, Nextracker hosted industry leaders at an opening ceremony at a steel plant in Las Vegas.
The steel manufacturing facility will be owned and operated by Unimacts, a specialist in industrial manufacturing and supply chain solutions, and all steel components will be produced exclusively for Nextracker.
The idea for the facility came to Dan Shugar, founder and CEO of Nextracker, after passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in 2022. He contacted Matt Arnold, CEO of Unimacts, urging Unimacts to provide a steel tube manufacturing facility for Nextracker in the western U.S., reported Eckhart Gouras, publisher and managing director of pv magazine group, who attended the ceremony. Shugar’s goal was to have the Unimacts’ facility in place by January 1st, 2023. At the time of that phone call, Unimacts had no production sites in the U.S., but a steel manufacturing facility in Tijuana, Mexico. The solution was to take that facility and put it in Las Vegas to ensure that Nextracker was locking in the support that the IRA provides to domestic clean energy manufacturing.
This is Nextracker’s sixth manufacturing facility in the U.S. since 2022 and the 15th facility the company opened or expanded with key suppliers in the U.S. in that time. The tracker specialist has located plants near its target markets with the goal of reducing time and cost for its customers The Unimacts plant will produce steel components for Nextracker’s in ground-mount solar power generation plants primarily for projects in Nevada and southwestern states. Another plant opened last year in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania just outside Pittsburgh, and it serves the rapidly growing solar markets in Pennsylvania, Indiana, New York, and Ohio.
“Unimacts is excited that our partnership with Nextracker will create new jobs and increase the amount of solar we can produce here in the US,” said Arnold. “With the Nextracker dedicated line, we will be supporting gigawatts of utility-scale projects annually, powering homes and businesses across the Southwest and even as far east as Indiana and Kentucky.”
The Las Vegas facility features expanded production capacity generating what Nextracker estimates to be more than 100 new jobs currently, and over 200 expected by 2024. The plant includes Unimacts manufacturing machinery and equipment relocated from Mexico as well as new equipment.
“By partnering with Unimacts on this new production line, we’re bringing back American manufacturing jobs and building out America’s energy infrastructure to enhance energy security and de-risk the supply chain,” said Shugar. “This plant will support our customers with quick shipping and American-made products.”
Since passage of the Inflation Reduction Act just over one year ago, solar developers are focusing on U.S. made content for solar power plants. In order for developers to obtain the domestic content bonus credit all steel and iron used in projects must be completely manufactured in the U.S., with the exception of certain metallurgical processes related to steel additives. This primarily applies to construction materials used for racking, trackers and foundation components anchoring solar panels.
“Nextracker and Unimact’s new facility is a shining example of how smart policy can uplift communities with jobs and local investment,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “The United States is in the midst of a clean energy manufacturing renaissance, and investments like this are helping drive us toward an abundant, reliable, American-made clean energy future.”
At the opening event, Shugar called on the audience to spread the word that the U.S. solar industry is not only delivering lower cost energy, but also creating clean jobs and “advancing energy independence, all while we’re facilitating clean water and clean air.”
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