U.S. market

Frontier Forum: Why ditching aluminum is key to securing the US solar supply chain

We tease out the geopolitical, environmental, and economic case for replacing aluminum PV frames with recycled US steel.

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Photo credit: Origami

Photo credit: Origami

This is a partner episode, brought to you by Origami Solar

Solar is the fastest growing electricity-generating technology in history. That rapid scaling was a result of squeezing cost reductions out of every step of production. But there's one critical piece that hasn't changed much: frames.

Aluminum frames now make up one-quarter of the cost of a PV module. And that metal mostly comes from China, a country that controls nearly 60% of the world’s smelting.

Since passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, companies have built or planned 155 gigawatts of production capacity for modules, cells, wafers, and power electronics in the US. But up until now, frames have been overlooked.

So what would it take to replace foreign-sourced aluminum with US-made recycled steel — and why does it matter?

This week, we feature a conversation with Gregg Patterson, the CEO of Origami Solar, and MJ Shiao, the VP of supply chain and manufacturing at the American Clean Power Association.

This conversation isn’t just about frames. It's a story about geopolitics, trade, the complexities of manufacturing, and the urgency of improving the reliability of solar. 

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This event was recorded live as part of Latitude Media’s Frontier Forum series. You can watch the full conversation here.


Stephen Lacey: Solar is the fastest growing electricity generating technology in history. It took coal 32 years to grow from 100 terawatt hours of generation to 1,000 terawatt hours. It took fossil gas 28 years. Wind was a dozen years, and it took solar eight years to hit that milestone. We will surpass a terawatt of PV manufacturing capacity this year, and that scale was the result of squeezing cost reductions out of every step of production. But there's one critical piece that hasn't changed much, frames, which now make up one quarter of the cost of a module.

Gregg Patterson: The one component of a PV module that had not seen dramatic reductions in cost or performance, we said there's got to be a way to do it. That was it.

Stephen Lacey: Greg Patterson is the CEO of Origami Solar. He's a former VP at Hewlett Packard who got into the solar business in 2007. He ran an inverter maker and a distributed battery developer, both of which had successful acquisitions. Four years ago, he teamed up with a group of fellow solar veterans to focus on replacing aluminum with recycled steel for frames.

Gregg Patterson: We started before COVID. We started before Ukraine, before any of the geopolitical tensions had gotten as high as they're now. As those real world events played out, it became clear that aluminum frames is an Achilles heel for solar.

Stephen Lacey: In the years after, a pandemic and a war pushed aluminum prices to historic highs. Supply chains for all types of imported materials and equipment were upended, and America's trade tensions with China, a country that happens to control nearly 60% of aluminum supply, also worsened.

Gregg Patterson: The evolution of the world around us has created such a significant risk to imported aluminum frames.

MJ Shiao: We saw a confluence of these supply shocks for solar. I mean, we had everything from polysilicon shortages. Of course, the issues with international trade and shipping meant that those bottlenecks increased shipping costs for solar modules as well.

Stephen Lacey: MJ Shiao is the VP of Supply Chain and Manufacturing at the American Clean Power Association. That's a trade group pushing for policies that support domestic clean energy. He worked at a major solar manufacturer during that rough time and he experienced the mess firsthand.

MJ Shiao: So when there is that over concentration of supply, then that means when there are these policy trade, even just logistical whiplashes that are happening, the industry becomes far more vulnerable.

Gregg Patterson: Given the dominant supply position globally that China has on aluminum and given the rapid growth that solar is being tasked to fulfill, we realize that this is increasing the risk of staying with the incumbent.

Stephen Lacey: It may sound simple to just swap out a different medal for frames. It is not. It takes years of designing and testing and then convincing manufacturers and developers to make the switch. But a combination of domestic content rules, new tariffs on Chinese metals, reliability problems with bigger modules, and a focus on embodied emissions of clean energy products are setting the stage for a shift in how those frames are built.

Gregg Patterson: As it's played out, it's like the perfect solution at the perfect time.

Stephen Lacey: I'm Stephen Lacey, and this week, we've got a conversation I held with Greg Patterson of Origami Solar and MJ Shiao of the American Clean Power Association. It was recorded live as part of our Frontier Forum series, and we asked, "What would it take to replace foreign sourced aluminum with US-made recycled steel?" Why does it matter?" This conversation isn't just about frames. It's a story about geopolitics, trade, the complexities of manufacturing, and the urgency of improving the reliability of solar. 

So, did you start by evaluating recycled steel first? How did you tackle the problem initially?

Gregg Patterson: Steel is a better metal. The thing that we had to solve first and foremost was corrosion concerns. Steel rusts. Perception is aluminum doesn't. Aluminum is a really good corrosion solution, especially anodized aluminum. But we realized that if you could solve corrosion, which I'll walk through in detail, how we did that, as well as the weight because steel is much, much denser than aluminum. That's where the design challenge was, is how do you really minimize to a point of immateriality the weight gain of a steel frame versus an aluminum frame.

The increasing focus on decarbonizing solar, it was just natural with the opportunity of the robust regional and for sure domestic recycled steel industry because recycled steel is the vast majority of the steel used in the US today and Europe and most other regions. So, it was a wonderful blend of the opportunities. Steel's inherent fatigue resistance, higher strength, it's truly just a better metal than aluminum for a steel frame application.

Stephen Lacey: So we're going to dig into each of those things a little bit deeper throughout the conversation. MJ, I want to roll over to you and ask about some of these macro trends that we just set up. So, ACP's mission is to support the build out of a domestic clean energy industry. You're a supply chain expert. You've worked in the industry. You've also been an analyst in the industry. What is your take on some of the risks that I outlined and that Greg outlined?

MJ Shiao: You've outlined a lot of the categories of risk, and I'd also add that this is an opportunity as well for the industry, but as far as the risk is concerned, any procurement lead out there will tell you that a diversity of supply options is necessary to ensure that you have a resilient secure supply. The unfortunate reality of today for the solar supply chain is that there are components of the core solar supply chain that are heavily dominated by manufacturing in China, and that makes the industry vulnerable to supply shocks. This is a lived experience for the industry. So, I think there's an opportunity here too, not only just to de-risk that, but also, we are in the beginnings of a historical expansion of US clean energy manufacturing capacity.

Just for solar alone, we've seen 85 new or expanded solar manufacturing facilities being announced in the US. That's over 28,000 jobs. That's tens of billions of dollars of investment in local communities. That is also part of the solar industry story that I think is really exciting too. This is no longer about necessarily just buying foreign materials, but it's also having solar reinvest in the community, not just from the perspective of having low cost, reliable clean electricity, but also putting long-term manufacturing jobs in these communities as well.

Stephen Lacey: Gregg, tell me more about what the highest value propositions are. Tell me about cost comparisons. How much are you factoring in emissions and the move to factor in embodied emissions in the development and purchase of solar products? What are the most significant value propositions that potential customers are interested in?

Gregg Patterson: Steel frame is a very strategic way to de-risk the supply chain. It's not the whole supply chain for a module or for a project, but it is material being number two or three on the old bomb. So, I think if you look at the value proposition, it's stacked, but I'd say de-risking the supply chain is first and foremost. Because when you have the existential threat of interruptions or arbitrary price increases because of tariffs or political decisions made on either side of the Pacific, that's really hard to manage. It's really hard to hedge. So, that's it. You get a great combo. Given the domestic content that the IRA provides in terms of the tax credit, you get a material impact on increasing your domestic content as you de-risk the supply chain from Asia.

The next one that's really starting to play out, and this has been coming I'd say the last six to nine months, there's an increasing focus on module fragility. The reality is the size of modules have increased over 40%. At the same time, there's been cost down efforts on both glass and frames to reduce the material and thus the structural capabilities. So, we have this perfect storm of cost reducing the core structural elements. At the same time, we're seeing more and more weather, extreme weather events, be it wind, snow, or hail that is requiring a higher performance structural support for modules. So, with steel frames, we've already demonstrated, third party tested, and we're making lots of public statements and visibility and talking about it all the time.

The steel frames are higher performance because it's a better metal and we've designed a really, really good steel frame. So, that performance improvement to deal with the reality of our future solar market and environment is key. Then finally, it is the decarbonization. When we got into it, we didn't realize how big it was. We knew it would be immaterial, but we never realized it would be a 90% reduction over imported aluminum frames. It's not just the transit from Asia to the US or Europe. It truly is just that aluminum is an insanely dirty metal. So, the ability to do that and the growing focus on decarbonizing, solar has to lead that. It truly has been an incredible evolution and expansion of the value proposition over the last four years.

MJ Shiao: Especially the first two points, de-risking and technical performance, those are intertwined as well. For example, I was speaking with someone earlier this week who had dozens of megawatts of modules that were broken through tennis ball sized hail, and that in the middle of the current environment where there's uncertainty with tariffs, there's a moving policy with what's happening again non-trade. That means that replacing those panels isn't a simple exercise of just calling up the same manufacturer anymore and there's redesign work. So, there is this interconnectedness between having that resilience of the actual technical module as well as of the supply chain as well.

Gregg Patterson: As we've been presenting at conferences and shows and to customers and just industry interested parties, we're getting anecdotal feedback on wind and snow damage that is material. So, we're seeing all the big players, DNV, CEA starting to elevate this concern. So, I believe this is an emerging and material impact. The cost down dogma is we got to do it selectively. Cost is always going to be important, but we got to do it selectively and we now have virtually insufficient margin to deal with a much more turbulent climate future.

Stephen Lacey: How did you land on this 90% reduction in GHG emissions in production of these frames compared with aluminum module frames? This was a report that you put together with Boundless Impact Partners, is that right? So tell me about that analysis and the actual comparison and how you came to those numbers.

Gregg Patterson: Yeah, we did. We realized that just like with our testing results, we want to use third parties, very, very credible third parties. Boundless Impact is a very focused engineering consulting firm that does lifecycle analytics. So, we basically just told them the characteristics of our steel frame and then they researched aluminum frames and they developed this and that 90% reduction per average size module is based on their analysis. We've updated it with actually our definitive supply chain and it got a little bit better, but it really is a rigorous analysis. That 90% reduction, which is a really big relative number, translates also to about a 90 kilogram carbon footprint reduction per module. If you scale that to gigawatt scale, I think it's like 180,000 metric tons of carbon avoided per gigawatt.

So, that is absolute materiality if you look at it. So, we're also working very closely with the Ultra Low-Carbon Solar Alliance. We're members and they have been pushing the EPEAT Ecolabel. We are literally geared up and with literally third party validated reductions. What we're able to do is provide to our customers that buy the module manufacturers an absolute data-driven reduction that they could go and try to achieve the EPEAT criteria. That I think is going to become increasingly more important going forward, because we're seeing a lot of attention and focus on ultra low-carbon and the EPEAT standard.

Stephen Lacey: MJ, why do embodied emissions matter? Of course, they matter for the planet. We should all be thinking about the emissions from producing products. But are companies actually demanding low embodied emissions products along the supply chain? Where does the policy component come in? If I think about Europe's carbon border adjustment tax, why could that potentially influence investments in lower embodied emissions products?

MJ Shiao: Solar and clean energy should really lead on this, right? It doesn't make sense for a fitness instructor to be like, "Well, I teach other people how to be healthy, but I do and eat whatever I want." So as the cleaning energy industry, we should also be leading on this front. But beyond that, if that's not convincing enough, there are reasons why this is becoming important. First of all, a lot of the end users are starting to look more and more into Scope 3 emissions. As they set their carbon reduction targets, their net zero carbon targets, the embodied carbon in their supply chain matters more and more and more. So, that goes for folks, whether they're buying the modules themselves or they're buying the electricity generated from a solar power plant, the carbon intensity of actually producing that solar energy also matters.

I think secondly that you're seeing it as a way for folks either to address their trade or carbon priorities as well. It's looking at the carbon intensity of supply chain. So, for example, right now, the EU has a carbon border adjustment mechanism in place. So, for key industries, they are actually looking at the embedded carbon of the importer product. If the origin or the source of that product doesn't have a price or some inclusion on carbon in that whole market, then they're going to put a tariff on it. It essentially is a trade mechanism to enforce and ensure that the product coming into the EU has the same climate standards that they put on their own industries. So, this is going to be important for anybody that obviously wants to trade with the EU in those sectors, and it's being discussed in other places, the US included.

Stephen Lacey: So that brings us to a bigger policy conversation that I suspect a lot of people are going to be very interested in. As we said, de-risking the supply chain is one of the biggest value propositions here. I want to reflect on the current environment policy as a backdrop to this. So, the Biden administration recently unveiled new tariffs that will cover about $18 billion worth of imports under Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act, Chinese EVs, EV batteries, solar modules, steel and aluminum. MJ, give us an overview. What are these tariffs designed to do and how do we separate them from the ongoing AD/CVD case on finished aluminum products? As you say, there's an alphabet soup of tariffs here. So, help us just understand the policy backdrop.

MJ Shiao: You stole my line, Stephen, but yes, there is-

Stephen Lacey: I gave you credit for it though.

MJ Shiao: There's also the classroom of 201, 301, all sorts of numbers of tariffs as well. But starting with the Section 301 tariff, so just as quick history, these were originally implemented under the Trump administration really targeting products imported from China. They were maintained by the Biden administration when Biden was elected. These were recently refreshed and there are some changes made to what was included or raised or added to those tariffs as well. It just highlights that while there are some detailed and nuanced differences in policy and focus, it's very clear that competitiveness with China is a bipartisan issue in this country. It is going to remain a priority for either administration in the new year after the election.

Really the challenge is clearly broader than just setting up some domestic manufacturing of goods. It really is how do we de-risk and transition the dependence on China for many of our supply chains, not just solar energy. So, I think that when you talk about focus is really the focus there. In terms of its impact on clean energy itself, not to get toot our own horn here, but I think we at ACP have been pretty proud of how we helped to shape some of the 301 tariffs that apply to clean energy.

For example, with our counterparts at CIA, we worked really hard with our battery manufacturers looking at cells versus module manufacturing in this company and saw that there was a lag in cells and was able to really support a case for this delay in non-EV cell tariffs going up in 2026, instead of immediately for EV battery cells. I think another thing that's in there that wasn't broadcast as much but I think is really beneficial and more relevant to this conversation is that there are these exemptions for solar manufacturing equipment and that is going to directly help a lot of the domestic solar manufacturers that are buying equipment right now, bringing it into this country and now don't have to pay a 25% tariff, which reduces the CapEx and again, increases the competitiveness, lowers the cost of domestic manufacturing.

So, I think there are good things that are embedded for clean energy in these tariffs. I think when we look broadly at tariffs in general though, the challenge has always been that there's a great deal of uncertainty that comes with these tariffs. They're not surgical. A lot of times the rules and regulations don't necessarily allow them to provide a lot of visibility ahead of time. I think that is something that, for example, the Biden administration has been helpful in thinking about how do you create some transition periods for the industry. The solar industry I think is remarkably resilient and able to change supply chains, but it needs the time. So, we've seen that with, for example, the two-year tariff moratorium on Southeast Asia imports when the oxen investigation was first starting up two years ago.

We saw that with, again, this 301 one and a half year delay for the sell tariffs for batteries, even the Section 2 01 tariff, although it re-implemented tariffs on bifacial module imports. There's this 90-day safe harbor for contracted goods. So, again, the signal is clearly to de-risk from China, to in many cases help support domestic manufacturing, but also allowing the buyers, the downstream community that time to transition for these new policies as well.

Stephen Lacey: All right. So, distill this down for me a little bit more. There's been this long-running debate in the industry over whether these penalties will hurt the domestic energy transition, raise equipment costs, create further uncertainty, or actually build the real domestic industry. How's the market reacting right now? What are the really key pieces of fear, uncertainty, and doubt?

MJ Shiao: Yeah, I mean I think there's a spectrum of reactions, right? In general, it's the uncertainty that kills. So, first, the folks that are more hedged, that are more diversified, they may not be feeling the pain as much as folks that over indexed on any particular part of the supply chain. Again, that's always been the challenge is that if there isn't a diversity of a supply chain, then these whiplashes and policy can have a much greater impact on the overall market, starts to feel more existential. When there is diversity, the industry can be more resilient.

Gregg Patterson: To chime in there, I mean, Origami doesn't need the tariffs to build a business case. MJ has forgotten more than I could tell you about tariffs and everything that is dynamically going on. But what I will tell you in the last two or three months as the aluminum AD/CVD case and the recent Biden administration tariffs on steel and aluminum from China, my sense is talking to everybody and our customers are the module makers in the US, Europe, and actually India. It was the wake up call and basically bumped the need to de-risk because the concentration, I mean in our three years of actively engaging the market, we found just one crystal and silicon module maker that wasn't dependent on Asian-based aluminum frames.

So, 98% of the supply is coming out of Asia, most of it's China, and they're realizing that they can't manage the risk. Because when you have the unpredictability of tariffs and trade issues and tensions across the Pacific, there's no good way to hedge that risk. The beauty is with steel frames, we can scale. We can scale and there is no constraints, material constraints with the supply chain that we've put in place. So, we can drive a solution that brings a lot of ancillary values like domestic content, higher performance, and lower carbon. But it's been amazing how we're engaging with the market and the vibration has grown dramatically in the last three months, just saying, this is a problem we got to solve and solve quick.

Stephen Lacey: So on the developer installer side, Gregg, what are the big questions people have? I'm sure they want to know about corrosion. You've just gone through corrosion and load testing. So, what are the sources of uncertainty around a new product?

Gregg Patterson: We are actively engaging with all the big EPCs, developers, asset owners, and we're actually at SIBA last... I think it was last week, really trying to get everybody aware of the value proposition of steel frames, get their questions answered. If I just unpack this, the EPCs love the improvement in performance. We've gotten lots of stories about how many modules are broken just installing them on trackers and the ability to give them a more robust frame that, as one said, doesn't feel like a pool noodle. It's very, very, very positively received. They're concerned about the weight, but we can solve that. We walk them through the exact increase in weights and they say, "Okay, that's not an issue."

So from an EPC perspective, we're getting tremendous thumbs up on how a higher performance steel frame can improve the ability to get projects in the ground. On the developer side, very excited about the domestic content. Surprisingly excited, don't know how to monetize, but surprisingly excited about the decarbonization because a lot of their money is coming from folks that make that a priority. But they're interested. They want to understand corrosion. They're very excited about our performance issues with weather, but corrosion.

So, we're spending a lot of time walking them through why the zinc, aluminum, magnesium coatings that I'll shorten to ZAM as I talk about it more, it's been around for decades and it's got industry experience that gives everybody comfort and a whole library of third party independent corrosion testing. We've been doing it, they've been doing it. So, the corrosion issue, we have to address, but we've never not gotten past that as we get everybody educated. So, the benefit there, and as everybody starts internalizing fragility issues as the cost down on thinner glass and smaller frames that fundamentally reduce the ability to withstand weather, this is one of the main ways that this could be solved.

Stephen Lacey: Also, just talk about the difference in weight. Does that impact the performance of trackers with a heavier frame?

Gregg Patterson: We've talked to virtually every major tracker company and the increase in weight is basically the conclusion, it's immaterial. There's more project and site-related variables than the weight gain that has to be addressed. So, it truly is not a problem. We're competing with aluminum, which has got 60 years of runout to do. So, there are ways that we're going to improve steel frames over time, both in terms of costs, performance, and optimizing things like weight that we'll be showing up literally within a year or two.

Stephen Lacey: MJ, we're going to surpass a terawatt of manufacturing capacity globally. Talk about the complexities of dropping a new frame design into that very large sector, and then I'll get Gregg to respond.

MJ Shiao: Well, the complexity is getting folks to adopt something new at this point. There's a lot of incumbency. There's a lot of folks that feel like, "Hey, this is something that works and need to be shown," as I'm sure Gregg and his team are doing the data and the analysis that shows that this is a superior solution both in terms of performance but also costs, because the cost pressures are still incredibly prevalent in the industry as a whole. That being said, I do think that solar has always been an industry that when there is a superior solution, it doesn't take long for folks to start to adopt and realize and try to and adopt it because they need to also respond to those competitive pressures as well.

One thing that I think will be exciting to watch too is that something like Origami Solar with a new technology, new way of doing something at the same time ramping up as US manufacturing as well. I think that is something that will be, again, exciting to watch because it's historically been challenging for a lot of the designs, a lot of the thoughts, a lot of the US specific challenges to be addressed when the manufacturing is 8,000 miles away and the people that are designing it are not in the fields looking at US specific topologies, climate issues, hail damage.

So, this ability to have local manufacturing for technology innovators in the US to first of all be able to visit a facility down the road, instead of 8,000 miles away requiring a visa, is going to help in terms of accelerating the cost down, the performance gains for those innovations, as well as help be able to commercialize these innovations much more easily. So, I think that's one of the really good knock on effects of having a local manufacturing ecosystem build up as well.

Gregg Patterson: Two points, Stephen, we spent a lot of time and we looked at designs that would radically change the form of a frame, but as we looked at it and talked to customers, it became clear that the ideal solution now is truly a plug and play. Form-fit-function identical to an aluminum frame is the best answer to ease that. How do they transition in? Because nobody wants to honestly even change their framing cell automation to be able to put the frames on the laminate, and they sure don't want to have to go to market and try to develop new standardized installation methods in any segment residential through utility.

So, our design was absolutely developed to make it a seamless transition, so that nobody's really going to see or notice difference between the aluminum frame they mounted yesterday and the steel frame they mount today. I also see the strategic benefits in my 40 years of business and engineering that when you get closer to your customers, just like the automotive industry did back in the '70s and '80s when the European and the Asian, primarily Japanese auto companies came to the US. They got intimate with the market needs. I believe that'll happen. As we create regional supply chains, you'll be able to understand exactly what each region does because Europe and the US and Asia and India are all going to be really, really different markets in terms of what you really need to solve.

Stephen Lacey: We have another example of a solar technology that has been reassured and that is trackers. Steel has been critical for the growth of that industry. Gregg, any corollaries to the tracker market? Can module frames follow trackers?

Gregg Patterson: There's absolutely similarities. One, it's the proof point that says how quickly you can reshore and create the local jobs and economic upsides without any material negatives for the solar industry. In fact, reshoring and using steel accelerates and increases confidence in project development and construction by shortening the supply chain materially without concerns about logistics costs or uncertainties in delivery. Given the bottlenecks we have continued to have on all the ports and with the random aspect of customs quarantine, it gives confidence. It actually improves the execution in the region. But the one difference between us and the tracker company is that we are taking advantage of a material cost difference.

We're not just reshoring the same material to the US. We're actually reshoring using domestic steel, which has traditionally been about the third of the cost of aluminum. So, we get to bring in a new metal, reshore the production of that, build the worldwide global competency center for it here, instead of following and hoping to leverage from the Chinese. But how do we do that? We can do that because of the inherent benefits and cost-effectiveness of steel. We can do that at parity and eventually materially lower cost without sacrificing the performance and the decarbonization that comes with aluminum.

MJ Shiao: I would just add here on the tracker side, if you talk to some of the leading tracker players, they had these plans to onshore more manufacturing here before something like the Inflation Reduction Act was even passed, just for all the reasons that Gregg just talked about, carbon, logistics, bringing supply closer to demand, and then of course, you add the federal tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act. Suddenly, that just accelerates everything. Similarly, we've seen the seed things for solar modules as well.

Stephen Lacey: MJ, you talked about some of the reshoring generally that's happening in the US. I guess just a blunt question on that, are domestic content requirements working? How are they working?

MJ Shiao: Yeah, I mean specifically focused on the domestic content bonus credit for the ITC, PTC, and the Inflation Reduction Act. Talk about more alphabet soup here. I think we've had more clarity just in the past couple of weeks with some additional guidance that's out from treasury. There's this new elective safe harbor option that really gives certainty of values that the tax equity community has really been looking for. So, as a result, we do think that there are projects that are going to be moving forward as a result. It's a step in the right direction though. There's still a lot of things that need to be fixed and certain that treasury and the folks that are helping them to pull together a proposed rule in the future are thinking about.

But one of the challenges is that right now, it's a static table. It doesn't really contemplate many of the exciting innovations that are going to come, whether it's things like tandem solar cells or even just what Origami is trying to introduce to the market. Right now, the values are based off of a standard of the aluminum frame. Well, what if Origami brings something different to the table? How is that being looked at independently of the incumbent? So those are some of the improvements that we're continuing to work on with the industry and with the folks in the administration to try to solve and really help domestic content reach its full potential.

Stephen Lacey: Gregg, remind us, how does the module frame play into the domestic module content tax credit?

Gregg Patterson: Well, it's material. Like I say, let's say we're a tie with the glass. The only thing bigger is the solar cells. So, if you look at what is the easiest low hanging fruit to drive a material increase, it's the frame and shifting to steel frames gives you all the ancillary benefits I've mentioned, but it is material. I can't tell you how many customers that we're talking to and they're telling the procurement team, "I need more domestic content, get this done," because it's important to their customers, the developers, ultimately asset owners, et cetera, that really want to take advantage of that.

The playing field is not exactly fully clear, as MJ mentioned, but the trend and the strategic intent of that domestic content is playing out in terms of real decisions and motivations on how do we drive that domestic and reshoring effort.

Stephen Lacey: So to wrap up with a big picture question, in your op-ed, Gregg, you asked a really simple question, which was, so are we serious? Are we committed to building a safe, secure, and transparent domestic supply chain? Are we serious about decarbonization? Are we serious about shoring up our immense vulnerabilities? When you ask, "Are we serious?", who are you referring to?

Gregg Patterson: Well, it truly is the module manufacturers, but it links to virtually the entire industry, the people that are going to be building these large projects. As I think about it, solar has to mature the hell up if I can use that term. If we're going to be the backbone of the future grid, which is what everybody believes is the right answer, we've got to really understand literally how will it perform. So, we're asking the entire industry and to a degree we're asking the questions that says, "Can you scale to be the backbone first and foremost? Two, will you deliver over the long haul the performance you need to be that backbone and are we going to get really serious?"

Like MJ said, I view the carbon content as a brand tarnisher and we got to get out of that brand tarnishment effort. So, we have to get the entire industry aligned, but the ancillary benefits that come with these questions and the shift not just in frames, but across the entire solar supply chain and technology suite, it is we will have a more robust, scalable, higher performing energy grid. That's what we're looking for. So, it's to the entire industry that ultimately has to rally around these fundamental questions.

MJ Shiao: Whether we're serious or not, we have to be because these pressures are just going to continue to come at the industry. I think just from looking at the past few years, there's a much more serious engagement on the topics of supply chain, diversity, security, being able to know that we control our own IP and destiny. That is the direct result of all the supply chain shocks that have happened over the past few years. I also think there's a level of seriousness and maturity that we're forced to take now.

Stephen Lacey: Stephen and Gregg, I think we all join the solar industry probably around the same time, probably at this point have close, if not more, than two decades in the industry. I feel like for so long in our careers, we're always like, "Well, when is solar going to be at the adult table? We're always at the kids' table. We're always the technology of the future."

Well, we're becoming the technology of the now, which is in some ways great, but it also means that we are at the center of policy, politics, big forces, macroeconomic tensions, macro trade tensions. This is all centered around solar because it is the technology of the future. So, if we aren't serious, then we don't have a future. So, I think we're getting there. There's still a lot of work both for policymakers, industry, all the stakeholders around, and in some way or another, we're going to force to get there.

Gregg Patterson: If I'd summarize, there is no energy transition without energy independence, and there is no energy independence without robust decarbonized domestic supply chains. That's the logical progression to me.

Stephen Lacey: There you have it, a very good, wide-ranging conversation about these macro changes in the solar industry as seen through the lens of the PV module frame. That was Gregg Patterson, who is the CEO of Origami Solar. Gregg, thank you so much.

Gregg Patterson: That was great, Stephen. I really appreciate that. MJ, I love hanging out with you.

MJ Shiao: Anytime.

Stephen Lacey: MJ Shiao is the VP of Supply Chain and Manufacturing at the American Clean Power Association. Thank you, MJ.

MJ Shiao: Thanks for having me.

Stephen Lacey: This conversation was recorded live as part of Latitude Media's Frontier Forum with Origami Solar. This was a lightly edited version of the conversation. If you want to watch the full video, head on over to latitudemedia.com/events and click watch recording. If you want to read some additional coverage about the transition to recycled steel, we've got some links in the show notes so you can follow up and do some reading of your own. Thanks for listening. I'm Stephen Lacey.

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