First Solar is expanding its manufacturing operations in the United States outside of Ohio. The thin-film solar panel manufacturer today announced it will invest up to $1.2 billion for its fourth domestic factory in the Southeast. A specific location has not yet been announced, but First Solar said the site will have an annual capacity of 3.5 GW and should open by end of 2025.
In addition, First Solar will invest $185 million in upgrading and expanding its Northwest Ohio manufacturing footprint by 900 MW. The company’s first two factories (in Perrysburg and Lake Township, Ohio) will expand to 3.6 GW of annual Series 6 module capacity. First Solar’s third Ohio factory, which is currently under construction and expected to begin production in H1 2023, will increase to 3.5 GW of annual Series 7 module capacity. This will bring First Solar’s Ohio manufacturing capacity to over 7 GW by 2025.
First Solar estimates that the new investment in the Southeast and Ohio will add at least 850 new manufacturing jobs, taking its total number of direct jobs in the United States to over 3,000 people by 2025, which is believed to make it the largest employer in the American solar manufacturing sector.
“In passing the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration has entrusted our industry with the responsibility of enabling America’s clean energy future and we must meet the moment in a manner that is both timely and sustainable,” said Mark Widmar, chief executive officer, First Solar. “This investment is an important step toward achieving self-sufficiency in solar technology, which, in turn, supports America’s energy security ambitions, its deployment of solar at scale, and its ability to lead with innovation. We are investing in America’s future.”
Designed and developed at its R&D centers in California and Ohio, First Solar’s thin-film PV modules feature a layer of cadmium telluride (CdTe) semiconductor that is only 3% the thickness of a human hair. Additionally, the company continues to optimize the amount of semiconductor material used by enhancing its vapor deposition process through continued investment in R&D focused on more efficient module technology with a thinner semiconductor layer. First Solar also operates an advanced recycling program that provides closed-loop semiconductor recovery for use in new modules.
In addition to its Ohio manufacturing facilities, First Solar also operates factories in Vietnam and Malaysia, and is building its first new manufacturing facility in India, which is scheduled to begin operations in the second half of 2023. On completion of its expansion plans in the United States and India, the company expects to have over 20 GW of annual global manufacturing capacity in 2025.