Thin-film solar panel giant First Solar today announced its intention to build a fifth manufacturing facility in the United States. This fifth factory will join the company’s three-factory campus in Northwest Ohio and the under-construction fourth factory in Alabama, eventually allowing First Solar to have more than 14 GW of annual manufacturing capacity in the United States.
First Solar will invest up to $1.1 billion in the new factory, the location of which is yet to be determined. The fifth factory, which is anticipated to be completed and commissioned in the first half of 2026, will produce First Solar’s Series 7 modules, which are expected to be manufactured with 100% American-made components identified in the current domestic content guidance issued by the U.S. Dept. of Treasury.
“This decision is underpinned by robust fundamentals, including an order backlog of approximately 78 GW, the industry’s strongest balance sheet, a repeatable vertically integrated manufacturing template, and a proven technology platform,” said Mark Widmar, chief executive officer, First Solar. “With this investment, we continue to help deliver on the promise of the Inflation Reduction Act, which is to create enduring value for our country. By expanding America’s solar manufacturing base, and the value chains that support it, we are working to ensure that the U.S. enters the next decade in a position of strength, fully capable of producing the technology it needs to complete its transition to a sustainable energy future.”
First Solar has been announcing multi-gigawatt supply agreements with large-scale solar project developers over the last year. Earlier this week, industry analysts Roth Capital said a survey it conducted with utility-scale developers showed that many were unable to secure business with First Solar since the company is “booked out” or “sold out” too far ahead of the developers’ near-term needs. More factories being built in the United States would alleviate supply issues, but only in the long term.
First Solar said it anticipates that once the fifth factory is completed and ramped, Series 7 modules will account for over two-thirds of its annual domestic nameplate capacity. The larger Series 7 module is primarily used in the utility-scale market.
The company is already believed to be the largest employer in America’s solar manufacturing sector with over 2,500 employees across the country. First Solar estimates that the new facility will add over 700 new jobs, which when combined with the 850 new manufacturing jobs expected to be created in Alabama and Ohio and over 100 new R&D jobs planned in Ohio, takes its total number of direct jobs in the United States to over 4,000 by 2026.