First Solar investing $1.2B to expand U.S. Manufacturing Operations

Aug. 30, 2022
Most of that investment is marked for a new, 3.5-GW manufacturing facility in the southeastern U.S. Meanwhile, First Solar’s existing northwest Ohio production footprint will be expanded by nearly 1 GW with a $185 million upgrade

Keep your friends close and your supply chains closer.

In the latest of several energy transition manufacturing moves back to the U.S., the nation’s largest solar panel and module provider says it will invest $1.2 billion to scale up domestic production. First Solar plans to add more than four gigawatts in capacity across four states.

Most of that investment is marked for a new, 3.5-GW manufacturing facility in the southeastern U.S. Meanwhile, First Solar’s existing northwest Ohio production footprint will be expanded by nearly 1 GW with a $185 million upgrade.

The company’s announcement follows similar manufacturing intentions made public by companies such as Ford’s EV division and energy storage supplier Fluence. First Solar credited recent passage and signing of the Biden Administration’s Inflation Reduction Act—and its $350 billion in clean energy spending—with helping pave the way for the American expansion.

“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,” Mark Widmar, First Solar CEO, said in a statement. “We are proud of the fact that our manufacturing presence in the US is expected to directly and indirectly support over 18,000 jobs across the country by 2025, while our manufacturing investment will add an estimated $3.2 billion in value to the US economy, reflecting the impact of solar manufacturing on our country. We are investing in America’s future.”

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Overall, First Solar hopes to open the new southeastern U.S. factory, pending permitting and incentives approvals, to commence operations by 2025. In addition, the U.S.-based solar panel producer will expand capacity of two operating facilities in Perrysburg and Lake Township, Ohio, by up to 3.6 GW of annual module capacity.

First Solar opened its 1.3-GW Lake Township plant in 2019.

Once completed, the manufacturing expansion could create another 850 jobs to bring First Solar’s total to 3,000 employees in the U.S.

"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," Widmar. "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.”

First Solar reported close to 44 GW in project backlog during its most recent earnings call. Trading for shares of First Solar were rising Tuesday morning to more than $124 each on the Nasdaq. 

Installed solar capacity in the U.S. totaled 3.9 GW in the first quarter of this year, according to a recent report by Wood Mackenzie and the Solar Energy Industries Association. Overall U.S. installed solar reaches beyond 126 GW, enough to power 22 million homes at capacity.

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(Rod Walton, senior editor for EnergyTech, is a 14-year veteran of covering the energy industry both as a newspaper and trade journalist. He can be reached at [email protected]).

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