Nextracker opens single-axis tracker manufacturing plant in Texas

Solar racking manufacturer Nexttracker launched a new facility with JM Steel to produce tracker components for solar power plants throughout the southern United States. A dedicated solar tracker production line is at the new Steel Dynamics facility near Corpus Christi, Texas.

Credit: Nexttracker

“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 Nexttracker. “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 generating process than most overseas manufacturers. With JM Steel, we are collocated next to SDI Sinton, the newest steel mill in America, further lowering cost by integrating key manufacturing activities on a single campus.”

The 97,000-sq-ft JM Steel Sinton facility opened in October 2021. Based on its location, the Nexttracker production line will serve major markets by truck shipments, with access to three Class 1 railroads (UP, BNSF & KCS) and a deep- water port on the inland waterway system.

In response to global supply disruptions, Nexttracker decided to focus on manufacturing in the United States. IHS Markit Insight report recently found that “Steel procurement and manufacturing location will be a key concern for tracker suppliers as they contend with growing local content requirements among global markets and volatile shipping freight costs.”

Partnering with JM Steel, Nextracker will have a dedicated supply of critical materials within one of the fastest-growing and biggest solar markets: Texas and the Southern US Last year, Texas overtook California as the top-ranked state for solar capacity additions adding 6.6 GW of solar with an additional 23 GW expected 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 .”

Steel manufacturing typically is energy-intensive, but the Electric Arc Furnace, a “next-generation” process, is much more efficient and cuts pollution dramatically. EAF-based steel mills typically are as much as 75% less carbon-intensive than traditional blast furnaces.

Once fully operational, the new Nexttracker production line will support about 50 new local direct jobs and provide multi-gigawatts of solar tracker capacity annually. Solar trackers have become a standard structure for utility-scale solar power plants globally, typically increasing energy production by 20-30% more than fixed-tilt applications.

“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 VP of the flat-rolled steel group at Steel Dynamics.

JM Steel’s dedicated Nexttracker fabrication line becomes operational as of this news release, and all products manufactured for Nexttracker will be “Made in the USA.”

News item from Nexttracker

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