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A new solar energy deal will bring power to 140,000 homes and businesses in 3 states

Solar executive DK Kim poses for a photo with Kimberly Richardson, left, Lisa Nash, right, and members of the Qcells team Thursday during a visit to the company's solar plant in Dalton, Ga.
Olivia Ross
/
Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP
Solar executive DK Kim poses for a photo with Kimberly Richardson, left, Lisa Nash, right, and members of the Qcells team Thursday during a visit to the company's solar plant in Dalton, Ga.

WASHINGTON — Continuing its efforts to promote renewable energy, the Biden administration on Thursday announced what it says will be the largest community solar effort in U.S. history, enough to power 140,000 homes and businesses in three states.

Vice President Kamala Harris announced the deal during a visit to the Qcells solar panel factory outside Atlanta. The South Korean company's corporate parent, Hanwha Solutions Corp., said in January it will invest $2.5 billion to expand its Dalton, Georgia plant and build another plant in nearby Cartersville. Qcells projects it will supply about 30% of total U.S. solar panel demand by 2027, including making solar panel components usually manufactured outside the United States.

A deal announced by Harris calls for Qcells and Virginia-based Summit Ridge Energy to deploy community solar projects capable of generating 1.2 gigawatts of electricity in Illinois, Maine and Maryland. Community solar projects allow people to tap into solar power generated at a shared site rather than on individual rooftops and are a way for renters and those without access to rooftop solar panels to receive the benefits of clean energy.

Community solar results in an average of 10% in annual savings for customers, the White House said. The new plan will require the manufacturing of 2.5 million solar panels at Qcells' plant in Dalton, Georgia — the largest community solar order in American history, officials said.

The solar project is made possible by tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act, the landmark climate and health law Congress approved last year, Harris and other officials said.

"Since taking office, our administration has made the largest investment in solar energy in our nation's history,'' Harris said in a speech at the Qcells plant. "We strengthened domestic supply chains to make sure America has reliable access to parts and materials to build a clean energy technology and economy. We provided tax credits to encourage companies to buy solar panels made in America. And we invested billions more to build and expand factories like this one.''

The huge order by Summit Ridge Energy "was made possible by the investments that we have made to expand American manufacturing and increase demand for clean energy,'' Harris said. "There is a nexus there. When we talk about the relationship between supply and demand, it is real.''

Harris touted the role of Georgia's two Democratic senators, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, in approving the climate law and pushing for provisions to boost solar.

"All across our nation there are communities like Dalton — communities full of people with incredible ambition and aspiration — who just need an opportunity to show what they can do,'' she said.

Harris did not mention any political opponents, but White House officials contrasted Democratic efforts to promote clean energy with Republicans who unanimously opposed the climate law. The White House singled out Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican who represents Dalton. Greene voted against the climate law and wants to repeal parts of it.

Greene, a conservative firebrand who appeared at a rally in New York to protest the arrest of former President Donald Trump, has sharply criticized the Inflation Reduction Act, especially a plan to hire new IRS employees. Thousands of those hired will be armed agents, Greene said, a claim the IRS has strongly disputed.

Employees to be hired under the new law will not all be auditors and many will be replacing workers who are expected to quit or retire, the IRS said. Armed special agents make up a small sliver of the IRS workforce.

A spokesperson for Greene did not respond to a request for comment. Greene has previously said she is "excited to have jobs" in her district from the Qcells plant.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press