With a brand-new factory in Houston, Texas, in the works, CEO Jim Wood foresees rapid growth in the sale of his company’s solar panels.

Wood lists off the types of customers that have installed
solar panels manufactured by SEG Solar. There are big-box retailers seeking to lower
their carbon emissions by placing panels on top of their stores to assist with
their energy needs. There are utility companies in places like Oregon, Florida,
and New York generating power for customers using their own array of panels
spread out over a local landscape. And there are everyday homeowners reducing
their electrical costs via panels on their roofs.

“We have a lot of commercial rooftop projects in Washington,
D.C., New Jersey, California, Massachusetts,” adds Wood. “Lots of utility
[customers] in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida.”

Presently, the company owns factories in Vietnam and Thailand,
which produce panels bound for the United States — a country that sets
prohibitive tariffs on imports from China. But SEG Solar runs a factory in
China, as well, which supplies customers in Spain. “The U.S. and Spain are our
primary markets,” says Wood. Right now, the factories utilized by SEG Solar
produce a variety of monofacial
and bifacial
panels — meaning, respectively, they generate power by utilizing either one side
or both sides of the panel (the latter being the standard type in the U.S.).

There’s another location where SEG Solar expects to have a
factory soon: Houston, Texas. In terms of future employees, Wood says, “We
anticipate having a total of 300 people when we open the facility in Texas — and that will eventually become 500 people.” The opening may take place as
early as 2023. Still, Wood says, “I don’t anticipate seeing any solar cells
made with any type of scale until probably after 2025 — maybe late 2025, early

The company chose Houston because it has a port through which
import materials can travel. Furthermore, it’s a central point from which to
service customers in Florida and California — as well as within the state. Woods
notes how, “Texas, itself, is one of the largest utility solar markets in the
country, as well as having very robust commercial and residential solar
markets.” As an example of one existing Lone Star State project, Wood points to
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. “The airport is covered in our solar
panels,” he says.

In terms of deciding to manufacture domestically, Wood points
to the Inflation
Reduction Act of 2022
as the primary instigator. The recently passed
legislation provides incentives for businesses to manufacture in the United
States, in order to achieve the government’s long-range energy goals. That
includes securing “America’s position as a world leader in domestic clean
energy manufacturing,” according to a statement from the Department of
, as well as becoming “a net-zero economy by 2050.”

In terms of achieving that goal of increased domestic solar
production, there’s a major hurdle for a business like SEG Solar: “The supply
chain in the U.S. doesn’t quite exist yet” to provide the industry with
necessary parts domestically, says Wood. He anticipates domestic supply-chain
manufacturers arising in tandem with the appearance of additional solar panel
producers, providing solar panel producers with solar panel glass and solar

But what attracts customers to SEG Solar’s products,
presently? Wood points to a variety of factors ranging from the company’s
25-year warranty on panels for homes to its vetted supply chain (avoiding any
Chinese-made material for panels for the U.S. market) to its recycling program
and the environmentally conscious construction of its panels. Furthermore, the
panels undergo a battery of testing from third-party outfits. “Those companies
do very rigorous testing on our solar panels” says Wood, ensuring that the
panels, for instance, are able to withstand all types of weather extremes and
that they perform with top-rated efficiency.

Additionally, there are customers who’ve already developed
trusted relationships with Wood, who has spent over a decade in the solar
industry, prior to the formation of SEG Solar. “Those relationships carry
forward,” he says.

SEG Solar developed out of a trading company working with the
Chinese-incorporated business, Seraphim; Wood helped launch the distribution of
Seraphim’s panels within the United States. SEG Solar is now its own standalone
company, although it will continue to share some resources with Seraphim until
2024. “No Chinese citizen owns any part of SEG Solar,” says Wood. In terms of
the facilities that SEG Solar now owns overseas, Wood adds, “Those are
[factories] we’ve acquired through our own profitability.”

Photos courtesy SEG Solar

Through its overseas factories, its upcoming Houston
facility, and its domestic and European customers, Wood envisions his company
continuing to “grow and get more market share and build brand recognition by
offering a quality product.”

Challenges: It’s still somewhat unclear how government
incentives for domestic solar manufacturers will work. “There’s still a lot of
unknowns on how to qualify for some of these,” says Wood.

Opportunities: “The demand for solar panels in the U.S.
is very high, but the supply chain [within] the U.S. is very bad,” says Wood.
He cites glass for solar panels, as well as solar cells, as being needed
domestically. That might provide opportunities for brand-new American companies
to step in and fill the breach.

Needs: “The biggest need for our businesses is good people,” says Wood. “Employment is becoming more and more competitive right now.”