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Solar parts manufacturer plans to triple operations in Nevada

It’s been one year since the wide-ranging Inflation Reduction Act was passed, and a manufacturing company credits the legislation for its recently opened Las Vegas location.

Unimacts hired 80 people and opened a manufacturing facility that makes metal torque tubes in Las Vegas at the start of 2023 thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act or the IRA, CEO Matt Arnold said. The metal tubes allow solar panels to rotate during the day, boosting efficiency by about 10 percent.

“We wouldn’t be here without the IRA — full stop,” he said.

The IRA incentivizes companies to bring operations related to clean energy to the U.S. The act offers both loans and tax credits for operations housed in the country.

Unimacts is taking advantage of a specific credit that covers 87 cents per kilogram of torque tubes produced in the U.S. That allows Unimacts to get a credit of $870 for every ton of torque tube produced, Arnold said.

“This is a brutally competitive industry, so every fraction of a penny counts,” he said.

Boston-based Unimacts has three manufacturing facilities across the globe, but its only U.S. manufacturing facility is in Las Vegas. The other two are in Spain and Mexico.

At its Las Vegas facility, located in the shadow of The Orleans, Unimacts can make enough torque tubes in a year to support two gigawatts worth of solar panels. But Arnold said the company is looking to triple the size of its operations in the near future to build enough capacity to support six gigawatts worth of solar panels and employ over 200 people.

The company is looking to finalize details on opening another manufacturing facility in Nevada, he said. “We want this to be the premier facility in the Southwest, for the industrial side of solar.”

Arnold said that before the IRA passed, almost any manufacturer related to the solar industry housed operations outside the U.S., since it was cheaper to do so. However, supply chain problems exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic gave companies with American customers a desire to be closer to the U.S.

“We got clobbered by steel prices, etc. and people are like, ‘Oh, this is kind of bad. We better start thinking about how we can get back here in the states,’” Arnold said. “People were leaning here, and nearshoring in Mexico. Then the IRA came in, and it was like, game over, go now.”

The same week the IRA was passed, he said, Unimacts began looking to open a facility in the U.S. The company chose Las Vegas because of its central location within the Southwestern states, which all have a high demand for solar projects.

Room to grow

Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., toured the Unimacts facility on Monday to mark the anniversary of the IRA. She honed in on the manufacturing benefits of the legislation and said it should bring 30,000 new jobs to Nevada as the funding and tax credits continue to roll out.

“The tax credits that manufacturers get for bringing back manufacturing jobs to America, bringing jobs to Nevada, those kinds of credits make a huge difference,” Rosen said.

Nevada ranks No. 1 in the nation for solar jobs per capita, with over 7,500 positions, and the Solar Energy Industries Association estimates that there are 112 solar companies operating in the state and about 15 are solar manufacturers. Arnold expects the full impact of the IRA hasn’t been seen due to the complexity of the legislation, which made changes to the medical and energy industries as well as the U.S. tax code.

“The IRA is a big, complex beast, and it still hasn’t been fully unpacked yet,” Arnold said.

Contact Sean Hemmersmeier at shemmersmeier@reviewjournal.com. Follow @seanhemmers34 on Twitter.

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