How Origami’s Domestic Supply Chain is Transforming the U.S. Solar Industry

Jun 24, 2024

By Michael Gray, Chief Operating Officer

One of the attendees at PV Module Tech asked a poignant question to our founder, Eric Hafter, last month. “How,” he said, “is the solar supply chain not keeping everyone up at night?” Between tariffs, shipping challenges, labor strife, and extreme weather conditions threatening international trade, he was referring to inherent risks associated with today’s solar supply chain.

Origami Solar’s team, at least, is sleeping well. That’s because we know module manufacturers, IPPs, utilities, EPCs and solar investors can not only sidestep these disruptive risks but avoid them entirely by prioritizing U.S. manufacturing as envisioned by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). According to Wood Mackenzie, U.S. solar demand is expected to top 50 GW by 2031. Transitioning the U.S. solar market from being over-reliant on imported goods is necessary for achieving the ambitious goals put forth by the IRA.

This transition isn’t just a possibility. At Origami Solar, it’s well underway.

Origami Solar steel module frame imageOur innovation in module frame design is enabling us to lead the way in re-shoring domestic solar frame production with a resilient solution that can strengthen energy independence and bolster the American labor force. Recycled domestic steel is not only the right choice to supply domestic module manufacturers, it is also the best choice.

Our recently announced domestic supply chain features three premier steel fabrication companies that will produce steel solar module frames made from domestic U.S. steel. We will start shipping to customers in the first quarter of 2025, scaling and optimizing the most robust and cost-effective steel ecosystem in North America.

Origami’s supply chain features American fabrication partners Welser Profile of Valley City, Ohio; Priefert of Mt. Pleasant, Texas; and Unimacts of Houston, Texas. Thanks to the size and productivity of the steel industry in the US, these partnerships will ensure a smooth and easy transition for module makers and their customers who will benefit great from the superiority of steel framed modules and the domestic content contribution.

Steel solar module frames form a key component in transforming solar production. They’re far more durable and reliable than imported aluminum frames.

Steel worker in a manufacturing facility working with sheet steelMade with a precision continuous flow roll-forming process that can easily scale, a coil of corrosion coated steel is quickly and efficiently transformed into steel frames that are drop-in compatible with current frames when it comes to module manufacturing and installation of modules in the field. They’re stronger, and also 90% less carbon intensive than aluminum frames used in standard PV modules, reducing the risk of complaints from environmentalists and regulators.

Origami’s frames can travel from the fabricator to any module manufacturing facility in the U.S. in a day or two without tariffs and shipping disruptions becoming an issue. The U.S. steel industry can produce every ounce of high-strength steel needed to build every solar module frame the U.S. solar industry will ever need without taxing itself.

With the passage of the IRA, solar manufacturing in the U.S. is surging. Over 50 manufacturing facilities have been announced or expanded, and over $100 billion is being invested into American communities. These results are remarkable, yet the long-term benefits of the IRA to our communities will only be truly optimized, and energy independence truly achieved, if we can ensure that each component of a solar module is American-made and does not rely on imports.

A concerted effort to move to steel module frames with production supported by the well-established U.S. steel industry can significantly help accomplish the ambitious goals set forth by this historic piece of legislation. The onshoring of clean energy components is critical to meeting emissions reduction targets, enhancing the security of the solar supply chain, and delivering a better-quality product.

Origami Solar’s partnership with Priefert, Welser, and Unimacts is a massive step in advancing U.S. clean energy targets. Together, we are spearheading the creation of a domestic supply chain that is secure, sustainable, and scalable.

The solar supply chain doesn’t have to keep everyone up at night. We’ve proven that the dream of onshoring domestic solar production is a reality.