First Solar bringing $1.1B PV Module Manufacturing plant to Alabama

Nov. 17, 2022
The Lawrence County facility’s expected annual output would be 3.5 GW of generation capacity, pushing First Solar’s full U.S. manufacturing footprint to more than 10 GW by 2025

Photovoltaic module maker First Solar Inc. is going to locate its fourth American manufacturing facility in Alabama, the company said this week.

The announcement positions First Solar as the latest of numerous energy transition-focused companies to bring planned production back to the U.S. Others making similar announcements lately include MicroVast, FREYR Battery, Ambient Photonics, Canoo, Cummins, ABB, LG Energy Solutions, Fluence Energy and Wallbox.

First Solar’s planned solar module manufacturing site in Lawrence County has a projected investment tab of about $1.1 billion. The facility will be located within the Mallard Fox Industrial Park and could be operational by 2025.

The Lawrence County facility’s expected annual output would be 3.5 GW of generation capacity, pushing First Solar’s full U.S. manufacturing footprint to more than 10 GW by 2025. First Solar had announced plans for a manufacturing plant in the U.S. southeast in August, adding to its domestic portfolio of facilities in Ohio.

“First Solar is a world-class manufacturer, and its solar modules are poised to play an increasingly important role in US energy self-sufficiency,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement. “I’m thrilled to see the company’s growth project headed to Lawrence County because I know it will create good jobs and have a major economic impact on this rural region.”

First Solar is focused on producing advanced thin-film solar modules. Its production is enhanced by research and development facilities in California and Ohio, although the company also has manufacturing overseas.

CEO Mark Widmar, like several clean energy company leaders recently, credited the Biden Administration’s Inflation Reduction Act with spurring a recalibration of manufacturing returning to the U.S. The IRA funds incentives for clean energy and e-mobility facilities and products mainly composed of parts sourced domestically.

“This facility, along with its sister factories in Ohio, will form part of the industrial foundation that helps endure this transition is powered by American innovation and ingenuity,” Widmar said by statement. “Our commitment to responsible solar includes operating facilities that are among the cleanest, safest and most diverse in the country.”

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The construction and operations of the Alabama module plant could create about 750 jobs for the state.

In its third quarter earnings report released in late October, First Solar noted $629 million in net sales for the three months ending Sept. 30 and forecast close to $2.7 billion total net sales for the whole of 2022.

Nonetheless, First Solar’s reported an operating loss of $68 million for the third quarter. Much of that shortfall was due to accounting, transaction and logistics charges particular to the period, according to the earnings report.

The forerunner of First Solar, called Solar Cells, began working with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory on thin-film solar module technology back in the early 1990s. First Solar shares are now traded on the Nasdaq stock market exchange and were up to more than $163 per share in Thursday afternoon's session.

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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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