The environmental impacts of the Inflation Reduction Act continue to trickle into American culture and industry, shifting once toxic activity toward the planet’s health. The Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts persist with the Investing in America agenda, which seeks to catalyze solar manufacturing and recycling into a new era of efficiency and viability. Millions of dollars claim to be the answer to forging that green reality, so how will it unfold?
Where Is the $83 Million Going?
In April 2023, the U.S. federal government announced the Investing in America agenda in conjunction with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The initiative’s primary objectives are bolstering solar supply chains, funding research and instituting more robust solar recycling. This is how it intends to spend its allotted $83 million:
- $52 million for 19 solar projects, including a mixture of eight recycling, two incubators, seven manufacturing and two research projects
- $30 million for solar implementation into the grid, entitled the Operation and Planning Tools for Inverter-based Resource Management and Availability in Future Power (OPTIMA) opportunity
- An additional $10 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, dedicated to supply chains
Advancements in these technologies will accelerate in the coming years to meet the nation’s climate goals by 2050. With this optimism comes more than 9.8 million metric tons of anticipated end-of-life waste from defunct, faulty or broken solar panels in landfills in the upcoming decades. Reaching sustainability targets will only matter with adequate resources for ethical disposal and circular economic behaviors.
How Will U.S. Citizens Feel the Benefits?
Focusing on domestic solar efforts reduces the nation’s dependence on international monopolies. China is the world’s leading solar supplier by far, and redirecting endeavors to American-made products empowers labor and economic growth and resilience.
A reliance on heterogeneous materials in domestic solar manufacturing hindered swift deliveries from corporations. The $10 million for supply chain assistance will directly impact access to perovskite and cadmium telluride in production, diversifying how enterprises build cells.
Personal and commercial buyers will have more cost-effective options, from expanding installation equipment attachment potential to racking peripherals. OPTIMA promises to improve grid reliability and compatibility to expand renewable access to more households and businesses. Additionally, the workforce assembling the modules will include around 100,000 newly created positions because of increased investments.
How Will Corporations Change?
Exploring this requires unraveling a few projects receiving funding, as they are examples of the investment’s breadth.
Oakland, California’s Solarcycle is one project receiving $1.5 million in funding and more private financing. It recovers 95% of trashed solar materials and gives them new life. This opens more avenues for supply chain diversification for materials like silver and silicon by tackling the existing waste issue, while other companies can create equipment to support healthier disposal. Solarcycle will revolutionize production by increasing the percentage of recycled content in new panels.
Chicago’s Locusview will use its awarded $750,000 to develop solar panel tracking technology to inform manufacturers of the product’s raw material treatment regardless of location, forcing higher sector accountability. The University of California San Diego is designing an “unzipping” technology to expedite disassembly and component recycling, encouraging assembly standardization.
MIT and the University of Colorado Boulder are the two institutions handling $18 million in R&D. Combined, they will dedicate resources to understanding the following:
- Tandem solar cell creation
- Cost-efficiency correlations
- Material durability testing
- Practical manufacturing models
The impacts of this funding might be the most permeable and significant, as its long-lasting effects rewrite operational habits and deepen familiarity with solar manufacturing.
Supply Chain and Manufacturing
First Solar and Toledo Solar intend to widen offerings further by designing new rooftop and window-compatible panels with thin-film technology. More projects seek to innovate solar magnetics, floating PV systems, inverters and fire safety measures. Investments are going to more than solar panel production outfits — the sector’s entire scope will transform into one more lucrative, stable and imaginative.
Making Progress in Solar’s Oversights
Streamlining manufacturing, controlling pricing and ramping up recycling efforts have been some of solar’s most prominent obstacles to adoption. Government support is the most impactful and expedited way to overcome them with national collaboration. The near future will catapult solar into greater ubiquity — a change necessary for decarbonizing energy in one of the most consumptive nations on the planet.