Scenic Hill Solar looks to bolster U.S. production of array infrastructure

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 1,157 views 

Little Rock-based solar power developer Scenic Hill Solar announced Thursday (Nov. 10) an initiative along with multiple U.S.-based solar array equipment manufacturers to encourage manufacturing American-made solar array components. A company executive said that the new initiative is expected to lead to a $30 million solar plant project.

American Made, Arkansas Built comprises Scenic Hill Solar, solar inverter manufacturer Yaskawa Solectria Solar, array tracking technology company Nextracker, steel tubing manufacturer Zekelman Industries and lithium-ion battery manufacturer KORE Power Inc.

“We are pushing for an American-led renewable energy system, starting in Arkansas,” said Bill Halter, CEO of Scenic Hill Solar. “The solar industry began in the United States but then shifted overseas. We are partnering with these leading companies to bring the industry back home to America by focusing on innovation and collaboration among the premier American manufacturers of solar equipment and batteries.”

Halter said the initiative with the solar array equipment manufacturers is expected to lead to a $30 million solar plant project that will include battery storage. He declined to provide additional details as the project is still in the works.

The initiative is expected to encourage more U.S. manufacturing of solar array components and to better make the arrays due to the partnerships with the companies in the initiative, he said.

According to a news release, the participating companies will use Scenic Hill Solar arrays as testing labs, demonstration facilities and opportunities for collaboration. Halter noted that some of the arrays are existing facilities with components supplied by the companies, while others have yet to be built and will include components provided by the companies. The arrays will be operating for clients of Scenic Hill Solar.

“A vibrant U.S. base of renewable energy manufacturers provides greater energy independence, strengthens American national security, mitigates global supply chain disruptions like those resulting from COVID-19, and maximizes the economic development opportunities for Americans provided by the explosive growth of renewable energy,” Halter said.

Scenic Hill Solar will purchase American-made components of solar arrays when available; however, he said not all array components are American-made. But, the initiative is expected to close the gaps in the availability of U.S.-made parts.

“As the leading U.S.-based designer and manufacturer of PV inverters and other best-of-class components, Yaskawa Solectria Solar is proud to partner with Scenic Hill Solar,” said Mark Goodreau, general manager. “We look forward to working closely with the Scenic Hill Solar team on the exciting opportunities ahead of us.”

Yaskawa Solectria Solar is a subsidiary of Lawrence, Mass.-based Yaskawa America Inc. and has production facilities in Buffalo Grove, Ill., and Oak Creek, Wis.

“Having opened three new U.S. factories this year, I can attest to the excellent manufacturing talent embedded in American towns,” said Dan Shugar, CEO of Nextracker. “We are on the cusp of a U.S. manufacturing renaissance, especially with the domestic manufacturing incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act. We are excited to partner on the American Made, Arkansas Built initiative, putting Americans to work to build products that power our homes and businesses safely for the future.”

Barry Zekelman, chairman and CEO of Zekelman Industries, said U.S.-based companies should supply the components of U.S. solar infrastructure.

“With continual investments in current and new factories, we are well positioned to support this initiative,” Zekelman said. “Our new facilities in Blytheville, Ark., and others across the United States are among the cleanest steel tube and pipe manufacturing facilities in the world and are ready to provide the highest quality steel torque tubes, screw piles and pipe piles for utility-scale solar installations.”

KORE Power is working on onshoring battery cell production and commercializing domestically-built energy storage systems.

“The American Made, Arkansas Built initiative aligns with our vision of a domestic, clean energy supply chain,” said Jay Bellows, president of KORE Power. “We look forward to joining the next generation of American renewable energy companies working together to secure a safe, clean, reliable energy future.”

Halter said he expects more companies to join the initiative and provide American-made products for initiative-related projects. He noted that U.S.-based solar panel manufacturer First Solar is an initiative supporter, but because of public company reporting concerns, it’s not an initiative participant. He added that First Solar equipment will be used in Scenic Hill Solar projects related to the initiative, but the supply is limited because the company is sold out for two years.

“At First Solar, we believe in the potential for our country’s energy transition to be powered by American ingenuity and innovation,” said Georges Antoun, chief commercial officer of First Solar. “Scenic Hill’s effort in identifying key elements of this domestic value chain demonstrates that this potential can be realized.”

Halter was a guest on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics. You can watch his full interview in the video below.