First Solar will have 6 GW of domestic manufacturing capacity with third module facility in Ohio

Thin-film solar panel manufacturer First Solar announced it will invest $680 million to expand its panel manufacturing capacity in America by 3.3 GW annually. The company intends to build its third U.S. manufacturing facility in Northwest Ohio.

Contingent upon permitting and state approval, the new facility is expected to begin operations in the first half of 2023. It should reach over 3 GW of production by the end of the same year.

Combined with the company’s flagship ~600-MW factory in Perrysburg, Ohio, and a second ~1.8-GW facility in nearby Lake Township, Ohio, this third factory (also in Lake Township) will bring First Solar’s total American production capacity close to 6 GW. The company also manufactures panels in Malaysia and Vietnam. [Editor’s note: As panels become more powerful in the same footprint, manufacturing capacity can expand without facility square-footage actually growing.]

“These investments in American-made solar technologies are the perfect embodiment of President Biden’s strategy to buildout domestic manufacturing and supply chains for critical industries,” said US Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm. “As a partner to our solar program since 2003 and a DOE loan guarantee recipient in 2012, this company is a great example of how investment and innovation can build the clean energy future right here at home — shoring up American competitiveness and bringing good-paying jobs to all pockets of the country.”

First Solar is the only major manufacturer in North America to not use crystalline silicon solar panels. The company instead makes thin-film modules using cadmium telluride and does not depend on silicon solar cells.

The 1.8 million-sq. ft facility is projected to directly create approximately 500 jobs, making panels for the U.S. utility-scale solar market.

“We have said that we stand ready to support President Biden’s goal to transition America to a clean, energy-secure future, and our decision to more than double our US manufacturing capacity with this new facility is First Solar making good on that commitment,” said Mark Widmar, chief executive officer, First Solar. “This facility will represent a significant leap forward in photovoltaics manufacturing, a true factory of the future. It will leverage our advantaged position at the intersection of efficiency, energy yield, optimized form factor, and cost competitiveness, while leading our manufacturing fleet in delivering the highest efficiency and wattage, and the lowest cost per watt.”