Breaking Ground: First Solar Launches $1.1 bn Solar Panel Manufacturing Facility in Louisiana

First Solar PV modules

In a groundbreaking ceremony, First Solar has initiated the construction of its much-anticipated manufacturing facility in Iberia Parish, Louisiana, marking its fifth fully vertically integrated factory within the United States. Distinguished guests, including Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and other state dignitaries, gathered to celebrate this momentous event.

This colossal project, deemed to be the largest capital investment in the region’s history, entails an approximate investment of $1.1 billion. It is set to significantly bolster America’s capacity to produce photovoltaic (PV) solar panels. Commercial shipments from the facility are slated to commence by the first half of 2026, propelling the company’s nameplate manufacturing capacity by 3.5 gigawatts (GW), reaching around 14 GW in the US and an impressive 25 GW globally in 2026.

The fully vertically integrated manufacturing facility, once completed, will span over an astounding two million square feet. Engineered to streamline the manufacturing process, it aims to transform a glass sheet into a ready-to-ship Series 7 module within approximately 4.5 hours, churning out over one dozen new Louisiana-made solar panels every minute.

Governor John Bel Edwards expressed his enthusiasm, hailing this endeavor as a historic day for Iberia Parish and Louisiana. He emphasized the significance of this substantial investment, lauding the prospective creation of hundreds of well-paying jobs. Edwards emphasized that First Solar’s decision to establish this facility cements Louisiana’s position as a global leader in the energy transition.

First Solar’s investment in Louisiana is expected to create more than 700 new direct manufacturing jobs within the state. The company, already a major player in America’s solar manufacturing sector, employing over 2,500 individuals across the nation, anticipates employing over 4,000 direct employees in the US by 2026.

Mark Widmar, CEO of First Solar, expressed pride in welcoming Louisiana into the largest solar manufacturing footprint in the Western Hemisphere. He emphasized the significance of investing in the country’s future, creating enduring value and securing the nation’s solar energy technology supply.

Since the beginning of the decade, First Solar has pursued an ambitious $4.1 billion manufacturing expansion strategy, boosting its global nameplate capacity from about 6 GW in 2020 to 13 GW operational today. With an additional 12 GW of nameplate capacity expected to come online in the US and India between the second half of 2023 and 2026, First Solar continues to fortify its position in the industry.

The company has also commissioned new facilities in Ohio and expects to complete expansions in Ohio and Alabama by 2024. Moreover, a new facility in India is set to begin commercial production in late 2023, and an R&D innovation center in Perrysburg, Ohio, is slated for completion next year with an investment of up to $370 million.

Rudolph Libbe, Inc. will spearhead the construction as the general contractor, joined by Lafayette-based LEMOINE in the early site work. The project is anticipated to generate 500 construction jobs in Louisiana over the next 18 months, highlighting its significant contribution to employment opportunities in the region.