First Solar starts work on $680 mn manufacturing facility in Ohio

First Solar - AP photo

First Solar announced it broke ground on its third manufacturing facility in Ohio with an investment of $680 million.

The new 3.3 gigawatt (GW) DC facility is scheduled to commence operations in the first half of 2023. The facility is expected to scale the company’s Northwest Ohio footprint to a total annual capacity of 6 GWDC.

“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 United States Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. “First Solar is investing in its workers through skills training, competitive pay, and robust benefits.”

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.

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.

First Solar produces its thin film PV modules using an 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 facility will be one of the most advanced of its kind in the solar industry, allowing 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.

“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.

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 new facility will be constructed by Rudolph Libbe, and is expected to create 500 construction jobs for union tradespeople in Northwest Ohio over the next 18 months.