Seasons in the Sun

Solar panel factories enhance Georgia’s green manufacturing growth.

Gov. Brian Kemp began his second term in January by declaring he wants Georgia to be the “electric mobility capital of America,” and new projects in automotive supplies and batteries kept the state accelerating along that path. The biggest announcement of early 2023 strengthens Georgia’s position in the broader greening of the economy. 



Sun Shines Bright in NW Georgia 

On Jan. 11, Qcells announced a $2.5 billion investment in Cartersville and Dalton to expand its solar panel manufacturing capacity. 

Conceived in Germany and based in South Korea, Qcells brought the Western Hemisphere’s largest solar panel plant to Dalton in 2019 and last May announced an expansion to boost its workforce to more than 1,200. January’s announcement means an additional 500 jobs in Dalton and 2,000 in Cartersville, where construction is expected to start by the spring. 

“We are seeking to further expand our low-carbon solar investments as we lead the industry towards fully American-made clean energy solutions,” Qcells CEO Justin Lee said in an annoucement celebrating “an even brighter future” for his company and Georgia. 

The Qcells locations’ combined annual production capacity could produce 8.4 gigawatts of electricity. (A Qcells executive told GaBiz about the U.S. market opportunities last fall.) 

According to CNET, 1 gigawatt is enough electricity for about 750,000 U.S. homes a year. The U.S. Energy Department’s goal of 45 percent solar power by 2050 would require 1,600 gigawatts of solar energy production. 

Solar provides more than 4 percent of Georgia’s electricity. 

EVs Keep Phoning Home 

The electric mobility ecosystem touted by the governor continued to grow in January. On Jan. 5, Ecoplastic announced that it is spending $205 million to open an auto parts plant near Statesboro in Bulloch County to supply the Hyundai Motor Group’s Metaplant America, the $5.5 billion electric vehicle project that broke ground in October in nearby Bryan County. 

Based in South Korea, Ecoplastic expects 456 jobs at the plant, where it will make exterior plastic parts such as bumpers and interior pieces such as consoles. 

Meanwhile, SK On is tripling down on its commitment to Georgia. Less than two months after announcing plans to join Hyundai in spending $4 billion to $5 billion on an EV battery plant in Bartow County, on Jan. 26 the company revealed plans for an SK Battery America regional information technology hub in Roswell. 

SK will employ 200 people and spend $19 million on the facility over several years. “It will help us build and operate an advanced manufacturing system in accordance with further expansion of battery production bases in the United States,” said Jason Choi, SK Battery America’s IT head. 

SK Battery America also makes lithium-ion batteries for Ford and Volkswagen at two plants in Commerce. 

According to the Georgia Economic Development Department, since 2020 companies have announced more than $21 billion worth of projects that will create 26,700 EV-related jobs in the state. 

The Mercedes-Benz charging hubs will be in key cities near major highways.

Companies High and Low Charge Ahead 

In more electric transportation news: 

  • Mercedes-Benz, whose U.S. headquarters are in Sandy Springs, announced plans for a North American network of high-power EV charging stations during CES 2023 in Las Vegas. Mercedes aims to complete the network of more than 400 locations with 2,500-plus chargers by 2027.  
  • Archer Aviation announced a key partner in the Covington plant where it plans to begin building its Midnight electric, four-passenger, short-range aircraft—that is, air taxis—in 2024. Stellantis, the parent of Chrysler, Dodge, and others, will provide expertise, personnel, and up to $150 million and take on the role of Archer’s contract manufacturer. 
  • Norfolk Southern is embracing all-electric sustainability at Austell Intermodal. In early January, the railroad went fully operational with six cranes that doubled the capacity for shipping containers at the terminal, which expects an additional 100,000 containers this year. The electric cranes replace diesel machines.

What Recession? 

If you follow these monthly business roundups, this news should be no surprise: the Georgia Department of Economic Development brought in 218 new businesses or expansions representing more than $13 billion in investments and expectations for 17,500 new jobs from July 1 to Dec. 31, the first half of fiscal year 2023. 

The industries we talk about month after month—advanced manufacturing, automotive, aerospace, and food processing—accounted for about 75 percent of the new jobs and 84 percent of the investments, the department said in a Jan. 19 announcement. Foreign companies brought about a quarter of the projects to Georgia. The benefits are statewide: 85 percent of the jobs and 92 percent of the investments are outside the 10-county metro Atlanta area. 

“Georgia is combining the resources and talent of local, state, and international partners to drive innovation and create meaningful economic impact,” Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson said. “Our collaborative spirit in economic development makes Georgia unique and is vital to success in our communities.” 

Andersen Opens Curtains on Window Plant  

Andersen is opening its first Southeastern manufacturing plant in Locust Grove to support its replacement window division, Renewal by Andersen, the company announced on Jan. 3. The Henry County facility represents a $420 million investment and is expected to create 900 jobs when it opens in 2025. 

The company’s Andersen Logistics has a distribution center in Douglasville, and Andersen Windows and Doors has an office in Marietta. The Locust Grove plant could expand beyond Renewal by Andersen.