The True Value of American-Made Solar Panels

Workers making solar panels

By Patrick Regan, president, Crossroads Solar

The recent climate legislation in the Inflation Reduction Act has the potential to do wonderful things for the decarbonization efforts in the United States and for the solar industry. As a U.S. solar panel manufacturer, we at Crossroads Solar are watching and waiting to see how the various credits will play out. Much of the objective of the IRA climate legislation is to generate American-made solar infrastructures in a way that will compete with cheaper imports. To my mind, we have to be sober about the likely outcome – or cheapness – of American-made panels. Prices will moderate but we will not become China, nor should we aspire to be so.

I get asked all the time how my panels made in Indiana compete with (mostly) Asian imports on price and quality. The answer is easy: We are a better-quality module, but we are more expensive. Both points will endure, and we should not expect that increased domestic production will decrease prices to be cheaper than imports. Price is important and will continue to be so, but the cost of a locally made panel should be evaluated on more than the simple dollar-per-watt calculus.

When I am asked about the price of a Crossroads panel relative to an imported option, I generally describe some of the added benefits that come with that added cost. My employees are all men and women transitioning from prison to society. What society gains from this local employment is the reduced cost of housing prisoners. When my employees begin to acquire financial stability, they start spending locally — on cars, insurance, housing and goods. They pay child support, restitution, find partners and get married. Some go to college, which we support financially. You don’t have to have a workforce such as Crossroads Solar’s to add up the benefits of local production. Non-felons also buy cars, rent apartments, and go to the dentist. To allow individuals to add back to our communities, we have to pay them well.

Read the full article, Guest Column, The True Value of American Made Solar Panels, on Solar Power World Online.

Sign up for the CREATE Newsletter and stay updated on the latest information in Renewable Energy Education.