Georgia Tech’s solar energy program sets the pace

Georgia Tech solar energy program sets the pace
Published: Apr. 7, 2023 at 11:36 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Georgia Tech scientists played a critical role in the technology that led to a major investment in solar power in Georgia, and prompted a visit to the state from the Vice President.

Vice President Kamala Harris went to the Qcells facility in Dalton on Thursday. There, she announced the largest investment in solar energy in the country’s history.

Qcells is now the largest producer of solar panels in the western hemisphere.

As it turns out, Georgia Tech plays a key role in it all.

“We are able to contribute, as part of Georgia Tech, to the innovation part, as well as the manufacturing part,” says Assistant Professor Juan-Pablo Correa-Baena in the School of Materials Science and Engineering.

He met up with Atlanta News First in the Kendeda building on campus, which he says is one of the most sustainable buildings in the Southeast.

“As scientists, we bring in our expertise, our intellectual property, new developments on materials, so we can make those materials better and those systems more efficient,” Correa-Baena says.

Innovators at the school have been instrumental in developing the latest in solar technology. Representatives from Qcells have even come to Georgia Tech to see their work.

“We really need it because of climate change and things we are seeing in our daily lives,” he says, “But the other aspect is that it has become profitable. It has become an industry that is able to sustain itself.”

Correa-Baena notes that the technology is only good if there are skilled workers who know how to use it, and Georgia Tech is a feeder to businesses just like this.

“What we are trying to do at Georgia Tech is crucial to the future of-- not just Q-cells and this new development in manufacturing-- but the future of clean tech here in the state,” he explains. “If we have a strong work force coming out of Georgia Tech that is going to feed into these clean tech manufacturing facilities, then companies are going to be more incentivized to come in and work in our state.”

Qcells opened one facility in 2019. They have another set to open in 2024.