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First Solar to invest $680m to grow US manufacturing capacity by 3.3 GW per year

10 Jun 2021

New production facility in Ohio designed to produce enhanced thin film PV modules, from mid-2023.

First Solar, a global solar technology company and developer of solar modules, has announced it s to invest $680 million to expand America’s domestic photovoltaic (PV) solar manufacturing capacity by 3.3 GW annually.

The company says this sum “represents an implied capital expenditure of approximately $0.20 per watt” and intends to fund construction of its third US manufacturing facility, in Lake Township, Ohio, with its existing cash resources.

The new facility is expected to commence operations in the first half of 2023. It is projected to achieve its throughput entitlement (modules produced per day) by the end of 2023 with over 3 GWDC of “nameplate capacity” (meaning full-load sustained output), and expects to attain full nameplate capacity, based on First Solar’s module efficiency roadmap, in 2025.

When fully operational, the facility will scale the company’s Northwest Ohio footprint to a total annual capacity of 6 GWDC, which would make it the largest fully vertically integrated solar manufacturing complex outside of China, the firm claims.

‘Embodiment of Biden strategy’

“These investments in American-made solar technologies are the perfect embodiment of President Biden’s strategy to buildout domestic manufacturing and supply chains for critical industries,” commented US Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm.

“As a partner to our solar program since 2003 and a DOE loan guarantee recipient in 2012, this company is a great example of how investment and innovation can build the clean energy future right here at home — shoring up American competitiveness and bringing good-paying jobs to all pockets of the country.”

The 1.8 million sq ft (167,000 sq m) facility is projected to directly create approximately 500 jobs and is expected to produce an enhanced thin film PV module for the utility-scale solar market in the US, which is anticipated to have a higher efficiency and wattage in a larger form factor. The additional production capacity from this new facility, when available, is also expected to help mitigate the challenges currently being experienced in the global ocean freight market, by reducing the transoceanic gap between international supply and domestic demand.

“We have said that we stand ready to support President Biden’s goal to transition America to a clean, energy-secure future, and our decision to more than double our US manufacturing capacity with this new facility is First Solar making good on that commitment,” commented Mark Widmar, chief executive officer, First Solar.

“This facility will represent a significant leap forward in photovoltaics manufacturing, a true factory of the future. It will leverage our advantaged position at the intersection of efficiency, energy yield, optimized form factor, and cost competitiveness, while leading our manufacturing fleet in delivering the highest efficiency and wattage, and the lowest cost per watt.”

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