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Asia Minute: South Korean companies are investing billions of dollars in US renewable energy

US Solar Plant Hanwha
Martin Meissner
A South Korean solar panel maker will invest more than $2.5 billion to build factories in Georgia, hiring 2,500 new employees and making components usually manufactured outside the United States, the company announced Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023.

South Korean companies are pouring new investments into the production of renewable energy products in the United States.

Two multi-billion dollar projects have been announced within the past five weeks, and they are directly connected to changes in U.S. law.

On Wednesday, the Korean solar company Hanwha Qcells said it's spending two and a half billion dollars to expand a solar power equipment plant in the state of Georgia, taking production from about 12,000 solar panels a day to 60,000.

That's growth by a factor of five.

The company is using tax credits and other measures that are part of the Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law last year.

The law encourages the production of renewable energy components by companies with a presence in the U.S., as an alternative supply to firms based in China.

Last month, Hyundai and battery maker SK On announced plans to invest over $4 billion to build a new plant to supply batteries for electric vehicles assembled in the U.S.— making them eligible for consumer tax breaks under the same law.

As for the maker of solar equipment, Hanwha Qcells said its spending is the largest foreign direct investment in solar energy the U.S. has ever recorded — although because of the new law, it’s not likely to be the last.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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