Solar manufacturing company Canadian Solar announced Oct. 30 it will invest $800 million in a solar cell production facility in Jeffersonville, Indiana. Construction is expected to start in late 2025.
The facility’s finished solar cells, the part of solar panels that absorb sunlight and turn it into energy, will be shipped to the company’s new solar module assembly plant in Mesquite, Texas for completion. The facility is projected to produce cells for 20,000 high-power solar modules daily, equivalent to five gigawatts of power annually.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s summer 2023 quarterly solar industry update, the U.S. currently produces about 97.2 gigawatts of electricity from solar panels. The five gigawatts produced annually from these plants will produce roughly enough power for 3,750,000 homes.
The company is building the facility within the River Ridge Commerce Center, the site of an ammunition plant that ceased production in 1972 after the Vietnam War.
Jerry Acy, the executive director of River Ridge, said the ammunition plant employed around 27,000 people, from its peak between World War 2 and its closing in 1972. In 1998, the U.S. army began transferring ownership of the then-unproductive land to the River Ridge Development Authority to help alleviate the economic loss of the plant.
The authority has since spent $130 million in public funds on redevelopment. Acy said River Ridge now directly employs around 12,000 people, resulting in 18,000 indirect regional jobs from the site’s economic impact. The site, he said, currently generates around $2.7 billion in economic output annually.
The Indiana Economic Development Corporation offered $12 million in incentives and grants to the company for the project, which is expected to directly bring 1,200 jobs to the area. Additionally, Acy said River Ridge offered discounts on land prices to the company.
Because of River Ridge’s status as an urban enterprise zone, a special zone created by the state of Indiana to bolster economic activity in distressed urban areas, new companies can obtain a 51% reduction in property taxes for 10 years. For this project, Acy said, River Ridge’s board negotiated a further reduction in those taxes.
After the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and as domestic electric vehicle and green energy production ramps up, Acy said he’s optimistic for the future of American manufacturing. This year, he said, has been River Ridge’s biggest year yet.
“In addition to a transition on the energy side, the COVID and supply chain problems experienced nationwide has really driven American companies to re-shore a lot of their manufacturing,” Acy said.
As for River Ridge’s future, he said he is proud of the progress they’ve made.
“It’s been a huge challenge for us, basically starting with no staff and no money,” he said. “But to have built it to where it is today, we are very pleased, especially with these types of announcements like here with Canadian Solar.”