First Solar maps out $1.2 billion U.S. solar manufacturing expansion plan

First Solar

The Inflation Reduction Act signed by President Biden includes some serious incentives for domestic solar manufacturers. So, it was only a matter of time before we got the next big announcement from First Solar. That announcement came today: First Solar plans to invest up to $1.2 billion in scaling production of its thin-film Cadmium Telluride (CadTel) PV modules, pushing its U.S. production capacity beyond 10 GW by 2025.

The company intends to build its fourth, fully vertically integrated domestic factory, with an annual capacity of 3.5 GWdc, this time in the US Southeast. The new factory is contingent upon permitting and pending approval of various federal, state, regional, and local incentives, and expected to commence operations in 2025.

Additionally, the company will invest $185 million in upgrading and expanding its Northwest Ohio manufacturing footprint by 0.9 GWdc. As part of its plans, First Solar will invest in expanding the capacity of its two operating facilities in Perrysburg and Lake Township, Ohio, by 0.6 GWdc to 3.6 GWdc of annual Series 6 module capacity.

The company will also expand its third Ohio factory, expected to be commissioned in the first half of 2023, to 3.5 GWDC of annual Series 7 module capacity. The expansion will increase First Solar’s total investment in its Ohio manufacturing facilities to over $3 billion, with a cumulative annual production capacity of over 7 GWDC by 2025.

First Solar estimates that the new investment will add at least 850 new manufacturing jobs, taking its total number of direct jobs in the US to over 3,000 people in four states by 2025.

“This investment is an important step towards 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,” said Mark Widmar, chief executive officer, First Solar.

On its last earnings call on July 28, 2022, First Solar announced a record bookings backlog of 44.3 GWDC. The company has seen demand for its advanced thin film photovoltaic solar modules driven by its ability to provide its customers and partners with long-term supply certainty, lower political and compliance risk, and access to its best available technology through its agile contracting approach.

Widmar added, “While we have made no decisions at this time, we continue to evaluate further investments in incremental capacity and could announce further expansion plans in the future. Any such decision would be developed on a solid foundation of strong demand, a repeatable vertically integrated manufacturing template, a proven technology platform, and a robust balance sheet.”

As for the CadTel tech, the company says its continues to optimize the amount of semiconductor material used by enhancing its vapor deposition process.

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 GWdc of annual global manufacturing capacity in 2025.

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