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Design-Build Plays Leading Role in Solar Industry's Future

Gray continues to play a significant role in the advance of the U.S. solar industry. In its most recent issue, PV Tech magazine—a leading trade publication for the photovoltaic technology supply chain—featured a whitepaper from Gray on the advantages of design-build delivery for solar manufacturing projects.

The paper explores the explosive growth of the solar industry and the factors that continue to drive its expansion before discussing the origins of design-build delivery and the advantages it can offer owners in project cost, speed to market, and long-term partnerships.


The Sun Rises from the East


Much of the domestic solar industry’s growth has been due to a massive influx in foreign direct investment (FDI). Following the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, investors from successful solar companies in Europe and Asia flocked to the U.S. in a race to build the industry from the ground up. After jumping out to an early lead more than a decade ago, California continues to lead the nation in solar capacity, while Sun Belt states from Arizona to Florida demonstrate that investors have incentive to build from coast to coast. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) currently lists almost 7,000 solar projects on its Major Projects List. A pair of year-over-year figures from SEIA and Wood Mackenzie’s Solar Market Insights report is equally indicative of the U.S. solar ramp-up: solar energy accounted for 46% of all new electrical generation capacity in 2022, climbing to 53% in 2023; and the industry saw a 51% increase in installed solar generation capacity from 2022 to 2023.

Where Does Design-Build Come into Play?


Design-build differs from design-bid-build in that it unites design and construction disciplines under a single contract with the owner. This simple change has huge ramifications for solar manufacturers’ ability to commence, conduct, and complete projects in accordance with their schedule and budget. While design-build delivery provides several universal project advantages, these are amplified for solar manufacturers; others are more unique to solar companies seeking to establish or expand U.S. operations in the current and changing industry climate.


Design-build fosters greater collaboration between disciplines, allowing early construction scopes such as mass grading, foundations, and equipment procurement to begin before design is complete and empowering architectural and engineering teams to continue to provide insight and expertise well beyond traditional design milestones. This flexibility not only promotes faster delivery, but also allows the design-builder to provide greater market accuracy and transparency in terms of pricing and lead times.


The flexibility that design-build provides is perfectly suited for solar—a rapidly emerging industry in which going to market ahead of the competition is essential to gaining market share. As technology in this young industry quickly evolves, owners must build facilities that not only meet their current needs but can be adapted and augmented—sometimes during the project lifecycle—to incorporate more efficient technology in the near future. Design-build allows for this kind of innovation without major delays from redesign or rebidding scopes of work.


In such a fast-paced, high stakes climate, solar companies that can find a domestic design-build partner with relevant industrial expertise and familiarity with solar manufacturing processes stand to gain an edge over the competition.


Check out the full whitepaper on PV Tech here. To learn more about Gray’s role in building the U.S. solar industry, visit our Advanced Technology market page.

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