A bankrupt company in Georgia is looking to drive US solar manufacturing, however the highly automated process is not expected to provide large numbers of jobs for the industry.
Following bankruptcy, Suniva Inc., the solar panel manufacturer, had to lay off a large number of workers but is hoping to re-hire its workforce through a trade suit that will encourage Chinese companies to open factories in the US.
The dispute, led by Suniva, stands a strong chance of bringing about the introduction of import tariffs, which would promote an increase in US solar factories, rather than the use of imported goods from China.
However, as the process of making solar panels and components becomes increasingly automated with the use of robots, it is unlikely new projects will provide large numbers of jobs.
Angelo Zino, an analyst at CFRA, said: “Tariffs might compel Chinese manufacturers to open plants here, does that create an enormous amount of domestic jobs? Probably not.”
At the beginning of 2017, there were 2,000 people in the US making solar cells and modules, but this has shrunk to less than 1,000, with most of the total 260,000 jobs found in development and installation, as well as other downstream tasks, such as finance.
According to recent coverage on Bloomberg: “While at least six Asian solar companies say the prospect of trade barriers has them weighing the idea of opening factories in the US, they’re likely considering highly automated facilities that won’t need armies of workers.”