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Texas Solar Facility Helps Diversify Oil-Dominant Energy Economy

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There’s a reason Texas is known for its oil and gas industry. According to data cited by The Center Square, it’s the biggest oil producer in the United States by a huge margin, producing more than three times as much oil as No. 2 New Mexico. More than one-third of all U.S. oil and natural gas workers are located in Texas, and it has the highest number of oil and gas businesses.

What many people might not know is that the Lone Star State also has a growing solar industry. Texas ranks fifth in the country in solar jobs with about 10,350, Forbes reported. In Texas, nearly 1.9 million homes are powered by panels, putting it second behind only California (with 10.5 million).

Photo Courtesy Trina Solar 

And while less than 5% of Texas’ total energy is powered by solar — a much smaller percentage than many other states — it continues to attract investments from leading solar companies looking to establish operations there.

Among the recent entrants is Trina Solar, a China-based provider of photovoltaic (PV) modules and smart energy solutions. 

In September, Trina Solar announced plans to invest more than $200 million to build a solar photovoltaic manufacturing facility in Wilmer, TX. The plant will span more than 1 million square feet, according to a Sept. 11 news release.

When completed, it will provide about 1,500 local jobs. The facility is expected to be up and running in 2024 and produce “large power output” Vertex modules using a 210mm large-size wafer.

“We have long had a vision to manufacture solar products in the United States, and we are proud of the jobs we are creating and the investment we are making in the Wilmer community,” Steven Zhu, president of Trina Solar US, said in a statement. “Trina’s goal in building this facility is to begin to create an ecosystem of American manufacturing that can serve the burgeoning U.S. solar market.” 

Photo Courtesy Trina Solar 

The company’s Wilmer announcement came during a transition period for Chinese solar firms. Imports from Chinese panel suppliers — including Trina — stalled in 2022 under a new law meant to “weed out products made with forced labor,” Reuters reported

The new Texas project demonstrates how much progress has been made between U.S. officials and China-based solar energy companies since then. That’s especially good news for Trina, which began operating in the U.S. in 2006.

Last year, Trina partnered with the affordable housing nonprofit Foundation Communities and Spear Commercial & Industrial to build a solar project in a low-income housing project in Austin, TX.

According to the press release, the company’s lineup of U.S. customers includes large utilities as well as “hundreds of thousands of small businesses and households.” 

Photo Courtesy Trina Solar 

Since its founding in 1996, Trina Solar has shipped more than 150 gigawatts of modules and generated green power in more than 100 countries and regions. The company is expected to announce more U.S. investments in the coming months, Zhu said. For now, much of its U.S. focus will be on the Wilmer project — something that local officials greeted with much enthusiasm.

“This manufacturing facility will be a shining example of how the Wilmer community will continue to thrive with the long-term commitment that Trina is investing within our community,” Sheila Petta, Wilmer Mayor, said in a statement. “It’s great to see that companies are reinvigorating manufacturing and creating workforce opportunities, especially within Southern Dallas County, as this region continues to explode with growth.”

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