Nextracker and JM Steel announced today a dedicated solar tracker production line on the campus of the new Steel Dynamics, Inc. (SDI) facility near Corpus Christi. Nextracker launched a new facility with JM Steel to manufacture next-generation, low-carbon tracker components for solar power plants throughout the southern United States.
"Customers want protection from steel and logistics cost volatility, and logistics delays associated with shipping, containers, and ports", said Dan Shugar, Founder and CEO of Nextracker. "We are migrating to domestic production to stabilize pricing and achieve superior on-time delivery for our customers. Moreover, US steel manufacturers like Steel Dynamics Incorporated (SDI) have a much cleaner, lower carbon production processes than most overseas manufacturers. With JM Steel, we are collocated next to SDI Sinton, the newest steel mill in America, further lowering cost and improving sustainability by integrating key manufacturing activities on a single campus."
A dependable steel supply is central to utility-scale solar, which is now the lowest cost form of energy in many locations. In response to global supply disruptions, Nextracker made the strategic decision to focus on manufacturing in the United States. IHS Markit Insight report recently found that, "Steel procurement and manufacturing location will be a key concern for tracker suppliers as they contend with growing local content requirements among global markets and volatile shipping freight costs."
Partnering with JM Steel, Nextracker will have a dedicated supply of critical materials within one of the fastest growing and biggest solar markets: Texas and the Southern US. Last year, Texas overtook California as the top-ranked state for solar capacity additions adding 6.6 gigawatts (GW) of solar with an additional 23 GW expected by 2023.
"JM Steel's proximity to SDI will provide Nextracker and their customers cost-effective products with quick response times to feed the growing solar market in Texas and the South", said Tony Calandra, CEO of JM Steel and JENNMAR USA. "And all of the steel being used to make Nextracker's products will be made with SDI's newest Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) technology, which utilizes recycled or scrap steel as a raw material for a lower carbon footprint which is a perfect fit for Nextracker's solar products."
Steel manufacturing typically is energy-intensive, but the Electric Arc Furnace, a "next-generation" process, is much more efficient and cuts pollution dramatically. EAF-based steel mills typically are as much as 75% less carbon-intensive than traditional blast furnaces.
"SDI is thrilled to welcome our customers JM Steel and Nextracker to our Sinton, Texas campus, and supply our environmentally-preferred low carbon steel for Nextracker's innovative solar tracker products", said Barry Schneider, Senior Vice-President, Flat Rolled Steel Group at Steel Dynamics.
Once fully operational, the new Nextracker production line will support about 50 new local direct jobs and provide multi-GW of solar tracker capacity annually. Solar trackers have become the best way to build utility-scale solar power plants globally typically increasing energy production by 20-30% more than fixed-tilt applications that do not track the sun. Additional jobs will occur in the upstream steel manufacturing and indirect jobs through the supporting service industries.
The 97,000 square-foot JM Steel Sinton facility opened in October 2021 and represents a $40 million investment. Ideally situated, the Nextracker production line provides the ability to service major markets by truck, while providing easy access to three Class 1 railroads (UP, BNSF, & KCS) and a deep-water port on the inland waterway system. With this dedicated production line, Nextracker and American manufacturing partners are building a resilient supply chain close to proposed solar projects across the South.
JM Steel's dedicated Nextracker fabrication line becomes operational as of this news release, and all products manufactured for Nextracker will be "Made in the USA".