Which solar panels are made in America? (2021 edition)
Which solar panels are made in the USA? Often they're made by companies that you wouldn't think of.
One of the great things about the green energy revolution is that it has created a rapidly growing job sector. In 2020, more than 250,000 people were employed in the solar industry across the United States.
Many of these are solar installation jobs, but also solar is one of the sectors where domestic manufacturing is growing. If you’re thinking of going solar in your home and want to support American manufacturing, you might be wondering which solar panels are made in the USA.
You might think you can simply choose an American company, like SunPower. It turns out that’s not true: SunPower panels are made overseas. Meanwhile, Jinko Solar, a Chinese company, makes some of its solar panels in Jacksonville, Florida. Here’s a table that summarizes some of the American-made panels on the market:
|First Solar||Series 6||Perrysburg, Ohio|
Lake Township, Ohio
|Hanwha Q.CELLS||Q.Peak DUO-G6||Dalton, Ohio|
|Jinko Solar||Cheetah||Jacksonville, Floria|
|LG Solar||NeON 2||Huntsville, Alabama|
|Lumos Solar||LSX panels, GSX panels, rails||Boulder, Colorado|
|Mission Solar||MSE PERC||San Antonio, Texas|
|Solaria||Power XT||Fremont, California|
|SolarTech Universal||EPIQ||Riviera Beach, Florida|
|Tesla||Solar Roof||Buffalo, New York|
|Heliene||?||Mountain Iron, Minnesota|
|Silfab Solar||SIL Mono||Bellingham, Washington|
Word of caution: silicon is usually made overseas
With the exception of First Solar (which doesn’t market its products to the residential market), the solar panels listed above all use silicon to turn sunlight into electricity.
The raw material for the silicon wafers that make up a solar panel is called polysilicon. (This is true whether the final product is polycrystalline or monocrystalline panels.) Polysilicon is melted down into ingots which are then sawn into wafers that make up the individual solar cells in a solar panel.
While the final assembly of a solar panel might happen in America, the raw materials such as aluminum, glass, and polysilicon might be sourced from anywhere on the globe.
China dominates the world’s production of polysilicon, silicon wafers, and solar panels, but that wasn’t always the case. The United States was a solar panel manufacturing powerhouse as recently as last decade, but trade wars that included US duties on Chinese solar cells in 2012 and retaliatory duties imposed by China on US polysilicon in 2013 resulted in the rapid loss of US market share.
Now, Chinese companies dominate global polysilicon manufacturing. Here are the top 10 global companies according to Solar Power World:
- Tongwei (China)
- Wacker (Germany/United States - Charleston, SC)
- Daqo New Energy (China)
- GCL-Poly (China)
- Xinte Energy (China)
- Xingjiang East Hope New Energy (China)
- OCI (South Korea/Malaysia)
- Asia Silicon (China)
- Hemlock (United States - Hemlock, MI)
- Inner Mongolia Dongli Photovoltaic Electronics (China)
While two companies have a US presence, Southeast Asian - China in particular - make up the majority of global manufacturing.
Why does any of this matter? Supporting local industry is one reason, but polysilicon manufacturing in China is particularly problematic because of accusations of the use of forced labor. The Department of Homeland Security says it “has information reasonably indicating that Hoshine uses forced labor to produce its silica-based products”, referring to China-based Hoshine Silicon.
The US has now banned imports of polysilicon and polysilicon products made by 5 companies, including Hoshine.
Note that this trade action doesn’t exclude all Chinese polysilicon. It only sanctions the companies accused of forced labor. It’s not yet clear what effect this action will have on solar panel prices in the US.
USA-based companies might make their panels overseas
One of the first things you should know is that just because a company is headquartered in the United States doesn’t mean that its manufacturing happens here too.
In November 2019, the US solar company SunPower announced a deal to spin off its manufacturing business to a new Singapore-based company called Maxeon Solar.
Maxeon is the product name of SunPower’s premium line of highest efficiency solar cells. Maxeon has manufacturing facilities in France, Malaysia, Mexico, and the Philippines. SunPower’s lower cost P-Series cells were being manufactured in a facility in Hillsboro, Oregon, but unfortunately that plant has recently closed.
The new, smaller SunPower will focus on solar installation instead of manufacturing, which means that it may end up resembling companies like SunRun and Vivint Solar that derive a significant amount of recurring revenue from solar leases and power purchase agreements.
As part of the restructuring, SunPower will have an exclusivity deal with Maxeon in North America, which means that for now SunPower will be the only North American seller of Maxeon cells. However, Maxeon Solar will be free to sell its products to other customers in the rest of the world.
One of the largest solar manufacturing companies in the US is First Solar. Their main product is a little unusual because they make their solar panels with thin film photovoltaics, rather than with crystalline silicon like the majority of solar manufacturers.
Thin film PV has a number of potential advantages, such as lower cost and better high temperature performance. Despite this, conventional crystalline solar panels are generally less expensive due to higher popularity and much larger manufacturing volumes.
Still, First Solar has done a good job of carving out a market niche and driving down the cost of their thin film product. Their panels are similar in price as conventional silicon panels.
If you’re interested in their products, you should know that First Solar has manufacturing facilities in the United States, but also Malaysia and Vietnam. Their might be no easy way to tell which facility your panel was made in, but that is something that your solar installer may be able to find out.
Their biggest manufacturing plant is located in Perrysville, Ohio, but the company recently opened a second factory in Lake Township, Ohio, where it employs approximately 500 people. Combined, both plants crank out 1.9 GW of solar panels every year, making First Solar the largest solar panel manufacturer in the United States.
Foreign companies that manufacture panels in the US
Most of the largest solar manufacturers in the world are based in Southeast Asia, and often their manufacturing happens there too. However, some of these companies have do significant manufacturing in America. Some of these factories have been opened very recently.
Hanwha Q CELLS
We wrote an indepth review of Hanwha Q CELLS and their Q.PEAK product line. While much of the manufacturing for this South Korean company happens in China, Malaysia, and South Korea, there is a new factory in Dalton, Ohio that is manufacturing the latest Q.PEAK panels. At the time of opening, Hanwha claimed that it was the largest solar manufacturing plant in the Western hemisphere, with 650 employees and a daily production capacity of 12,000 panels.
The Q.PEAK DUO-G6 is the latest version of the Q.PEAK series. It reaches an efficiency as high as 19.8%, making it competitive with other high efficiency premium panels, such as those from SunPower (Maxeon Solar) and LG.
The G6 is being manufactured in Ohio, but its unknown yet if that same facility will be making the G5 or any older series panels. For now, its safer to assume that the G5 and earlier Q CELLS panels are manufactured overseas.
Jinko, a China-based company that is one of the largest solar manufacturers in the world, recently started manufacturing solar panels in Jacksonville, Florida.
The Jacksonville factory is focused on manufacturing monocrystalline PERC modules, which are Jinko’s Cheetah product line.
Jinko also has significant manufacturing in China and Malaysia, but their product datasheets and website aren’t clear about which products are manufactured in which factory. This means that if you buy a Cheetah mono PERC panel with the intention of supporting an American-made product, there’s no easy way to tell if it was made in Jacksonville or China.
LG is a huge South Korean company that makes a wide variety of consumer electronics and household appliances. Their solar panel division recently opened a factory in Huntsville, Alabama to assemble their excellent NeON 2 series solar panels.
According to LG:
500 MegaWatts of LG NeON® 2 modules are now being manufactured in the United States. Additional inventory will be supplied from our South Korea factory when needed.
LG recently established a new factory with two production lines at an existing building on the company’s 48-acre campus in Huntsville, Alabama, where we have had operations for four decades. The new facility assembles NeON® 2 modules from imported parts and has increased LG’s Huntsville employment by 60 percent.
This means that if you buy an LG NeON 2 solar panel, it could be made in Alabama, but it’s also possible that it was manufactured overseas.
US companies that manufacture panels in US
There are a few smaller solar companies based in the United States that exclusively do their manufacturing here.
Lumos specializes in making attractive frameless solar panels that are suitable for specialized architectural designs. For example, take a look at our article about solar gazebos and carports, which includes exampls that use Lumos Solar modules.
The company is headquartered in Colorado. The solar cells that Lumos uses are sourced from overseas: Germany in the case of their monofacial cells, and Taiwan for their bifacial cells.
Their aluminium rails and steel structures are fabricated in the US, and their modules are assembled here as well.
Mission Solar is a small solar manufacturer based in San Antonio, Texas. While Mission does not manufacture its own solar cells, the panels are engineered and assembled at its San Antonio headquarters. You can read more about their production process on their website.
They have a small product lineup that features an attractive all-black monocrystalline PERC panel. Their panels come with a 25 year warranty on both the product and the power production. Overall, Mission Solar panels are a great choice if you want a US-made, premium quality solar panel.
Solaria is a small California-based solar manufacturer that specializes in making attractive, high-performance solar panels - similar in many ways to Mission Solar.
In addition to an all-black monocrystalline panel, Solaria has an “AC module” panel that includes a built-in Enphase microinverterm.
They have a factory located in Fremont, California, but Solaria also does some manufacturing in South Korea. Unfortunately, there’s no obvious way to tell if you’re buying Solaria panels made in Fremont or South Korea.
For more about Solaria, read our article comparing Solaria with SunPower.
(Note: you might come across SolarTech Power, which is a different Canada-based company that specializes in making solar panels for small off-grid applications.)
SolarTech Universal is a Florida-based company that makes high performance solar panels. Their solar panels use heterojunction technology (HJT), which combines conventional monocrystalline silicon cells with amorphous silicon thin-film cells. The claimed benefit of HJT is better performance at high temperatures and lower cost to achieve high efficiency. SolarTech Universal’s EPIQ line of HJT panels reach a peak efficiency of 19.9%.
SolarTech Universal is headquartered and does its manufacturing in Florida, making it one of only three American companies listed here that do all of their manufacturing in the US.
Tesla’s Gigafactory 2 is located in Buffalo, New York. Joint operated with Panasonic, the facility makes traditional solar panels and Tesla’s Solar Roof tiles. You can learn more about the Solar Roof and similar products in our article about solar shingles.
While the Solar Roof product has been slow to roll out, it was revealed this year that the delay was due to multiple product iterations in an effort to improve product quality and reduce costs. Now on its third version, the Solar Roof is finally entering mass production, and at a lower price point.
The Solar Roof is still a premium product, but Version 3 is approximately 40% cheaper than previous versions.
All of Tesla’s solar manufacturing occurs in the Buffalo factory.
Bonus: Canadian companies manufacturing in the US
Because of close economic ties between the two countries, its not unusual for Canadian companies to have operations in the US, and vice versa. Here’s two companies headquartered in Canada that do manufacturing in the US.
Heliene is headquartered in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and manufactures a range of polycrystalline and monocrystalline solar panels for commercial and industrial use.
Their manufacturing happens in both Canada and the United States, where Heliene recently took over a shuttered solar panel factory in Minnesota.
According to the company, its solar panels meet the requirements for the Buy American and American Recovery and Reinvestment Acts.
Silfab Solar is a large solar manufacturer headquartered in Toronto. The company has manufacturing operations in Canada and in the United States at its Bellingham, Washington factory. Silfab states that its panels meet the requirements of the Buy American Act.
Bottom line: buying American solar panels can be tricky
If there’s one thing that’s obvious, it’s that manufacturing is global. This is especially true of a product like a solar panel, which uses raw materials sourced from all over the world. Even if your solar panel is assembled in the US, the individual components that make up the panel - including the photovoltaic cells - probably were manufactured elsewhere.
Many foreign-owned companies do manufacturing in the United States, including LG Solar, Hanwha, and Jinko Solar. However, product lines that are manufactured in the US are often also manufactured overseas, which means that it can be difficult to know for certain if you are buying a US-made panel. Your solar installer may have a close relationship with their supplier, so ask your installer if this is something that they can determine for you.
But there are at least four US companies that do its manufacturing exclusively here in the US: Lumos, Mission Solar, SolarTech Universal, and Tesla. In addition to these, some US companies do a mix of manufacturing in the US and overseas. This means that if one of your goals of adding solar to your house is to support green manufacturing jobs in the US, you do have quite a few options to choose from.