Origami Solar sets up regional fabrication of steel solar panel frames


Origami Solar announced partnerships with three steel fabricators who will domestically produce steel solar module frames. The fabricators include with Welser Profile of Valley City, Ohio; Priefert, of Mt. Pleasant, Texas; and Unimacts of Houston, Texas. Origami expects to be able to ship steel frames to customers in the first quarter of 2025, and by producing regionally says that frames will get from the fabricator to the module manufacturer in one to two days.

“America has one of the world’s strongest steel industries” said Origami Solar CEO Gregg Patterson. “We have the energy efficient steel mills and the world-class fabricators that can produce every solar frame America will ever need.”

Origami Solar, founded in 2019 and based in Bend, Oregon, is a pv magazine 2023 award winner for manufacturing. The company produces patented, steel solar module frames that are said to lower cost and improve module performance. The company reports that the frames are made of “green” recycled steel, thereby reducing greenhouse gases by up to 93%, representing a reduction of 80 kg per module or 200 metric tons per MW.

A recent report by Wood Mackenzie and Origami Solar notes that while the U.S. is working toward building up its domestic module manufacturing, thanks for the IRA, a less well-known problem is U.S. dependence on aluminum module frames. The majority of these are currently imported from East and Southeast Asia, and the report says that they are all made from carbon-intensive aluminum.

Origami sees an opportunity to supply module manufacturers in the U.S. market who are switching from imported aluminum frames to domestically made steel frames. Its use of recycled steel from suppliers in the U.S. and Europe in its frames give it a competitive edge when it comes to greenhouse gas scoring as assessed by Boundless Impact

Patterson points out that by having regional fabrication centers in the U.S., customers will avoid “shipping issues, labor strife, or impoundments delaying the arrival of the frames they need.” He added that by procuring domestically produced steel frames customers won’t have the worry of “geopolitical tensions” or “ever-increasing tariffs.” In light of recent news about fragile solar panels, he noted that steel frames may alleviate the risk of frames failing to support ever-larger solar panels.

Switching to domestically produced products across the solar supply chain has the further benefit of supporting good-paying jobs.

“Thanks to our partnership with Origami, we were able to expand our investments in the solar industry, keep our Benton, Arkansas facility open, keep our current employees hard at work and expand to up to 70 additional skilled workers over the next three years,” said Rocky Christenberry, Priefert’s executive vice president

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