Nextracker and JM Steel, a subsidiary of JENNMAR USA, announced the opening of a dedicated production line for solar trackers at the Steel Dynamics, Inc. (SDI), facility near Corpus Christi. Nextracker and JM Steel have opened a new facility to produce next-generation, low carbon tracker components for solar power stations 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.”
Utility-scale solar is the most cost-effective form of energy and requires a reliable steel supply. Nextracker decided to concentrate on American manufacturing as a response to global supply shortages. IHS Markit Insight recently revealed that steel procurement and manufacturing location are key concerns for tracker suppliers, as they face growing local content demands among global markets and volatile shipping costs.
Nextracker, in partnership with JM Steel, will have a dedicated supply of critical materials in one of the most rapidly growing and largest solar markets: Texas and Southern USA. Texas was the number one state in solar capacity additions last year. It added 6.6 gigawatts of solar to California’s total, with 23 more GW projected 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.”
The steel manufacturing process is typically energy-intensive. However, the Electric Arc Furnace is a more efficient and polluting-free process. EAF-based steel mills are 75% more carbon-intensive than traditional blast fens.
“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.
The Nextracker production line, once fully operational, will provide local jobs for approximately 50 people and multi-GW solar tracker capacity each year. Solar trackers are the best way to construct utility-scale solar power stations globally. They can increase energy production by between 20-30% and 20% more than fixed-tilt systems that don’t track the sun. Indirect jobs in the support service and upstream steel manufacturing will create additional jobs.
The JM Steel Sinton facility, measuring 97,000 feet in area, was opened in October 2021. It represents a $40 Million investment. The Nextracker production line is centrally located and allows for easy access to three Class 1 railroads (UP BNSF & KCS), as well as to a deep-water port on inland waterways. Nextracker and American manufacturing partners have created a strong supply chain that is close to solar projects in the South.