by Nicola Groom
(Reuters) – Solar energy equipment maker CubicPV said on Thursday it has canceled plans to build a major U.S. silicon wafer factory, citing falling product prices and rising construction costs.
The announcement is a blow to the Biden administration’s ambitions to build a domestic solar energy supply chain to support growing US demand for the renewable energy source. China produces about 98% of the world’s wafers, which are the building blocks of solar cells that are assembled into panels.
CubicPV, which is backed in part by Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures, was trying to become a leader in domestic wafer manufacturing with plans to complete a 10-gigawatt factory this year.
The company was poised to take advantage of a generous new federal tax credit for solar projects that use American-made equipment. But rules unveiled last year allow solar facilities to claim subsidies even if their panels contain foreign-made wafers – a barrier to starting up domestic wafer factories.
Additionally, global prices for solar wafers have fallen 70% since the passage of President Joe Biden’s landmark climate change legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. The wave of new Asian solar production has created widespread concern about the fate of several proposed U.S. factories.
Laurin Sanderson, a spokeswoman for CubicPV, would not comment on how specific policies affected the project.
Instead of focusing on wafers, CubicPV said it will restructure and use its proprietary technology to make panels.
Frank Van, chief executive of CubicPV, said, “Together with our board, we concluded that the one thing that could really make a difference in humanity’s fight against climate change and America’s ability to realize a solar manufacturing renaissance is That’s to invent a better panel.” ,