Solar Tracker Maker Launches Production Line at SDI’s Texas Steel Mill

Strong points

Nextracker partners with JM Steel to co-locate on the SDI campus

Company targets low-emission steel to make trackers

Sees growing potential to power EAF steel mills with solar power

Solar tracker maker Nextracker has commissioned a new production line with JM Steel at Steel Dynamic’s newest steel mill campus in Texas, as the company shifts its focus to steel sourcing low-carbon in the United States and its own potential to help provide clean energy. to the steel industry, Nextracker CEO Dan Shugar said in an interview with S&P Global Commodity Insights.

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Setting up production at the SDI Sinton campus is part of an effort the company is undertaking to locate manufacturing of additional solar trackers closer to the point of steel production, as a typical system contains thousands of tons of steel, Shugar said. Solar panels are installed on the company’s trackers, which move to follow the sun in the sky throughout the day, increasing the amount of energy produced by the system.

JM Steel Sinton’s new line went into service on April 20 and will meet growing solar demand in Texas and the South. JM Steel, a division of JENMAR USA, opened its facilities on the SDI campus in October 2021.

Collocation at the SDI plant site will minimize the amount of pollution associated with transporting raw materials and allow Nextracker to deliver its products to customers more quickly, Shugar said.

In a statement announcing the new line, Nextracker cited a recent report by IHS Markit (now part of S&P Global Commodity Insights) which found that “steel sourcing and where to manufacture will be a major concern for tracker providers as they face increasing demands for local content between global markets and volatile ocean freight costs.”

In addition, whenever possible, the company gives priority to the production of steel with high environmental characteristics. SDI’s Sinton flat rolled mill is an electric arc furnace production, which uses recycled scrap metal as its main input.

“It’s a double win because the steel is cleaner and you’re also not transporting the steel and those heavy products a great distance,” Shugar said.

Although it is too early to monetize the cleaner aspects of its production, using low carbon steel as an input is an internal priority for Nextracker and a “customer love story” as a company. clean energy, he said.

Additionally, Shugar said Nextracker sees growing potential for its products to power EAF production in the United States and abroad as steelmakers look to lower their emissions profiles.

Lightsource bp’s Bighorn Solar project in Pueblo, Colorado, which entered commercial operation in December 2021, uses Nextracker products and will power the Evraz North America rail plant currently under construction. It will be the first steel mill in the United States to be powered by solar energy.

“We’re able to serve our customers better with less volatility on cost items like steel and logistics, have a more reliable schedule, and then we’re able to have a cleaner product that also minimizes the impacts…[while] drive electric demand, instead of fossil demand, which we can serve,” Shugar said.