First Solar, Inc. today broke ground on its third manufacturing facility in Ohio at a ceremony that was attended by United States Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, the Lieutenant Governor of Ohio, Jon Husted, and US Representatives Bob Latta (OH-05) and Marcy Kaptur (OH-09).
The new 3.3 gigawatt (GW)DC facility, which is scheduled to commence operations in the first half of 2023, represents a $680 million investment. When fully operational, the facility is expected to scale the company’s Northwest Ohio footprint to a total annual capacity of 6 GWDC, which is believed to make it the largest fully vertically integrated solar manufacturing complex outside China.
“First Solar’s new factory in Ohio is a model of President Biden’s vision for keeping America competitive by investing in clean energy and creating good jobs,” said Secretary Walsh. “Not only does this facility advance innovative manufacturing for a sustainable future, First Solar is also investing in its workers through skills training, competitive pay, and robust benefits. Empowering all of America’s workers is how we’ll build back a better economy and win the future.”
The facility is forecast to create over 700 permanent jobs in addition to the over 1,600 people that First Solar currently employs in Ohio. Founded in 1999, First Solar has had a manufacturing presence in the state since it began commercial production at its original Perrysburg factory in 2002, when it produced 1.5 megawatts (MW)DC of modules and employed 150 people. Since then the company has invested over $2 billion in expanding its Ohio manufacturing presence, making the state home to the largest photovoltaic solar manufacturing footprint in the Western Hemisphere when it commissioned its second factory in 2019.
“Ohio is a proud home to another First Solar expansion as we offer a great business environment, workforce and the resources to build a domestic solar energy competitor in a market dominated by Chinese imports,” said Lieutenant Governor Husted. “This new facility represents another win as we expand high-tech manufacturing in Northwest Ohio, creating great, higher-paying jobs that will be here for years to come.”
“First Solar has been a leader in creating and supporting new high-quality jobs and advancing technologies that benefit both the environment and the economy,” said Representative Latta. “Today’s groundbreaking will mean hundreds of new jobs in Northwest Ohio and increased economic growth in the region. It’s essential that we support American-made energy companies like First Solar, which are competing with Chinese solar panel manufacturers for market share in the renewable energy space.”
First Solar produces its thin film PV modules using a fully integrated, continuous process under one roof and does not rely on Chinese c-Si supply chains. The company’s eco-efficient module technology, which uses its proprietary Cadmium Telluride (CadTel) semiconductor, has the lowest carbon and water footprints of any PV module available today.
“The further expansion of First Solar’s production and the jobs it will create, marks another significant step forward on our path toward a more reliable, affordable, and secure energy future,” said Representative Kaptur. “With First Solar’s investment of nearly $700 million, we are affirming northern Ohio’s role as America’s capital of solar innovation and as home to the world-class workforce that is building us forward.”
The facility will allow First Solar to produce an anticipated average of one module roughly every 2.75 seconds across its three-factory Ohio footprint once it achieves its full production capacity. The facility will combine highly skilled workers with Industry 4.0 architecture, machine-to-machine communication, artificial intelligence, and Internet of Things connectivity to produce a higher degree of automation, precision, and continuous improvement.
“Today, we’re leading the efforts to revitalize American solar manufacturing and secure critical clean energy supply chains because reliable access to competitive, efficient solar panels is essential to our country’s future. Solar panels are the next crude oil, and we cannot be beholden to adversarial nations for our supply,” said Mark Widmar, chief executive officer, First Solar. “We’re scaling US cleantech innovation by investing in R&D, ensuring that a uniquely American solar technology that was developed right here in Ohio remains competitively advantaged. And we’re taking it a step further by producing the next generation of solar panels designed and made in the USA for the American solar industry.”
The 1.8 million square foot facility 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.
The new facility will be constructed by Rudolph Libbe, Inc., and is expected to create 500 construction jobs for union tradespeople in Northwest Ohio over the next 18 months.