U.S. solar developers to spend $6 bln to boost domestic panel supplies

June 21 (Reuters) - A group of U.S. solar energy project developers on Tuesday said they would jointly spend about $6 billion to support expansion of the domestic solar panel supply chain.

The U.S. Solar Buyer Consortium, which includes developers AES Corporation (AES.N), Clearway Energy Group, Cypress Creek Renewables and DE Shaw Renewable Investments, said in a statement that the funds would address current supply chain issues.

Since the start of the pandemic, companies that buy solar panels for large power plants have struggled with global supply chain disruptions that have driven up costs, as well as potential U.S. tariffs on imported panels from Asia. Duties on those products, which supply most U.S. projects, would make solar energy more expensive and less competitive with power produced by fossil fuels.

The consortium will invest $6 billion as it recruits solar panel manufacturers in a long-term strategic plan to supply up to 7 gigawatts (GW) of solar modules per year from 2024 - which could power nearly 1.3 million homes.

“Our joint commitment to procure at this scale can provide the certainty suppliers need to ramp up capacity and overcome current supply chain constraints,” David Zwillinger, chief executive of DE Shaw Renewable Investments, said in a statement.

The United States installed 23.6 gigawatts of solar capacity in 2021, according to industry trade group the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Asian imports account for most U.S. panel demand from solar facility developers. In response, the tiny domestic manufacturing sector in recent years has sought tariffs on Asia-made panels repeatedly, saying their products cannot compete with cheap overseas-made components.

U.S. President Joe Biden this month waived tariffs on solar panels from four Southeast Asian nations for two years and invoked the Defense Production Act to spur solar panel manufacturing at home. read more

In their statement, the panel consortium said more needed to be done and called on Congress to pass proposed legislation to support domestic solar manufacturing.

Reporting by Ashitha Shivaprasad in Bengaluru and Nichola Groom in Los Angeles; Editing by David Goodman and Aurora Ellis

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