U.S. steel fabricators ready to pump out Origami Solar steel module frames

Origami Steel solar module frame

We’ve been waiting for this “domestic content” news for a while: Origami Solar has finalized the U.S. supply chain to produce its patented steel solar module frames. The three partnerships Origami announced this week – with Welser Profile of Valley City, Ohio; Priefert, of Mt. Pleasant, Texas; and Unimacts of Houston, Texas – will enable Origami to ship steel solar frames to customers in the first quarter of 2025.

Origami has pioneered the steel PV module frame to replace aluminum PV module frames for several reasons, which we’ve written about extensively. They include lower costs, lower carbon emissions, and improved durability.

steel module frames vs aluminum

But probably the most notable value proposition was this news — the ability to quickly scale and pump out U.S.-based module frames for the growing U.S. module manufacturing scene.

Manufacturing steel module frames in the U.S. avoids many risks involved with trans-Pacific shipping, and helps contribute to that domestic content percentage everyone has their eyes on.

“America has one of the world’s strongest steel industries” said Origami Solar CEO Gregg Patterson. “We have the energy efficient steel mills and the world-class fabricators that can produce every solar frame America will ever need. Thanks to our newly-announced partnerships and all-domestic supply chain, there is simply no reason for the solar industry to accept the enormous risk that comes with imported aluminum frames.”

This domestic supply chain also means that frames can get from the fabricator to the module manufacturer in one to two days. As steel solar frames withstand greater module load levels and have 90% less embodied carbon than comparable aluminum frames, and are easily recycled.

Steel industry excited for solar

Origami-2_-001

Origami’s newly announced partners share Patterson’s excitement.

“Priefert has long prided itself for creating the high-end steel-based equipment American businesses need and for providing good-paying jobs for American workers,” said Rocky Christenberry, Priefert’s Executive Vice President. “Fabricating Origami’s steel solar frames helps us keep doing both. Indeed, thanks to our partnership with Origami, we were able to expand our investments in the solar industry, keep our Benton, Arkansas facility open, keep our current employees hard at work and expand to up to 70 additional skilled workers over the next three years. This partnership demonstrates American innovation at its finest.”

“The American solar industry understands that a domestic supply chain for steel solar frames dramatically reduces risk to companies and to the industry writ large,” says Unimacts Founder Matthew Arnold. “The steel frames we send from Houston to any production facility in the lower 48 states will never get stuck in customs or be forced to wait in line at a port; they can go from our facility to a module manufacturer in just a day. ‘Always on’ module manufacturers will not have to pause operations for a lack of solar frames. What’s more, given steel solar frames’ extensive testing for both structural integrity and corrosion resistance, solar project developers need not worry about frames failing. We’re ready and eager to start producing these frames at scale and helping the solar industry reap the benefits.”

Welser Profile CEO Thomas Welser also saw the opportunity to do a real service for the U.S. solar industry. “Welser Profile has worked with high strength steel for over 350 years, and the company has been in our family for 11 generations,” said Mr. Welser. “We understand how to shape high-strength steel to create uniquely durable, functional, and reliable equipment, and our partnership included working with Origami’s engineers to optimize their compelling steel frame design for the “always on” module manufacturing model. It was no surprise to us that Origami’s frames performed exceptionally well in rigorous testing, and we are eager to bring that performance to bear for the American solar industry.”

Founded in 1964, Priefert is one of the largest livestock equipment manufacturers in the world. Leveraging their expertise in the farm, ranch, and rodeo market, they began offering processed steel parts to other manufacturers before expanding to become one of the largest fabricators in the solar industry. Family owned and operated, Priefert is headquartered in Mt Pleasant, TX, with additional locations in Fort Worth, TX and Benton, AR.

“Unimacts-a Zetwerk Company is a leading global manufacturer and supply chain solutions company focusing on renewable energy. The company is one of the major steel manufacturers for the solar industry in the United States, supplying major tracker companies and EPCs with components such as torque tubes, rails, solar piles, solar modules, and drives. Unimacts will manufacture Origami Solar steel frames at its Houston plant, via dedicated manufacturing lines, expected to be production-ready by the end of 2024. With manufacturing capabilities in the US, Mexico, Europe, India, and Vietnam and efficient global supply chains, Unimacts can quickly expand both in the US and globally to support Origami Solar steel frame growth.”

Welser Profile is a market leading manufacturer in roll forming of special sections and tubes. This family-owned international business is now in its 11th generation of working in steel. Welser Profile has designed and produced over 21,500 unique cross sections for the market.

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