With heavy machinery preparing the site of a new solar module factory behind him, US Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Georgia, on Friday lauded Hanwha Qcells’ $171 million expansion of its facility in the Carbondale Business Park in southern Whitfield County.
The expansion, he said, will provide “nearly 500 good-paying jobs in solar manufacturing for North Georgia. And this facility, which is the No.1 producer of solar modules in the Western hemisphere, is now nearly doubling its capacity with this historic investment.”
The expansion is expected to create 470 jobs.
With more than 750 workers employed at the existing factory, total employment by Qcells at the Carbondale Business Park will exceed 1,000 when the expansion is complete. The company plans to begin operations at the expansion in June 2023.
Qcells is now the sixth-largest employer in Whitfield County. The expansion will move it into fifth place.
The new facility will produce 1.4 gigawatts of solar modules each year. It will bring Qcells’ total capacity in the US to 3.1 gigawatts, which the company said is equivalent to one-third of America’s solar module manufacturing capacity. The existing facility, which opened in 2019, produces 12,000 panels a day.
“This is about Georgia’s national and global economic leadership,” said Ossoff. “I’m grateful to Qcells, and I’m confident we can attract more investment to Georgia and establish Georgia as a leading site for manufacturing jobs, renewable energy and high-tech investment.”
Qcells Head of Public Affairs Scott Moskowitz said the company was happy to have Ossoff come to Dalton to visit the facility.
He said that when the expansion is up and running Qcells in Dalton will have “over 1,000 people making state-of-the-art solar panels that help to decarbonize our energy grid, help to lower electricity costs everywhere.”
Moskowitz said to put Qcells’ impact into context “consider that the peak capacity of Hoover Dam (on the Colorado River) is a little less than 2 gigawatts.”
“The expansion that we are doing right now shows how we are committed to Dalton and this region,” Moskowitz said.
He said that despite ongoing labor shortages Qcells officials believe the company can find 470 high-quality employees to fill the new jobs.
“This is technology that helps to modernize and decarbonize our energy economy,” he said. “People want to be a part of that.”
The average starting salary at the plant is $17 to $18 an hour for entry-level positions, and for jobs requiring more technical skills up to $30 an hour.
Qcells officials said they plan to begin hiring people into those higher-skilled jobs this fall and train them so they will be ready when the expansion opens next year.
Dalton-Whitfield Joint Development Authority Executive Director Carl Campbell said he is glad Ossoff came to Qcells.
“It’s always good to have a senator come to Whitfield County,” he said. “It’s even better that he has come to draw attention to what is going on down here. It’s going to be more jobs, more investment. It’s going to be great. We are excited about what they are doing here.”
Qcells is one of the biggest solar module manufacturers in the world, claiming an estimated total annual production capacity of 12.4 gigawatts as of 2021. Its parent company Hanwha Group is among the largest business conglomerates in South Korea.