First Solar is currently in the middle of one of the greatest transformations that any PV maker has made to date. The thin-film market leader is retooling lines in its factories in Ohio and Malaysia to go from making its small 24” x 47” Series 4 modules to the massive 51” x 87” Series 6, with the first test product rolling off its lines last December.
But the real test of Series 6 is not whether it can be made it the factory. It is whether it is adopted in the field. And in this regard, First Solar appears to be making good progress.
Following on a contract with Georgia Power to build a 200 MW solar plant in Georgia with Series 6 modules, the company has bagged another order from Vectren Energy Delivery to build a 50 MW-AC plant in Indiana with the Series 6.
The project will involve 150,000 of the large-format modules mounted on single-axis trackers covering 300 acres in Troy, in the southwestern part of the state. This is somewhat unusual, given that while tracking technology is gaining popularity for large-scale solar plants globally, it is still only seldom used in the U.S. Midwest.
A joint venture between Orion Renewable Energy Group and MAP Renewable Energy is developing the project, which is much larger than any solar plant build to date in the state.
First Solar expects to begin work following regulatory approval, which is expected in the first half of 2019, and to complete the project by the end of 2020. Construction of the plant will require hiring 250 workers, and First Solar notes that many of these will be union members.
First Solar downsized both its development and engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) divisions following the decision to re-tool for Series 6. However, as this project demonstrates the company still performs both development and standalone EPC work.
In fact, First Solar’s largest problem these days appears to be producing enough product to meet demand. First Solar expects to begin mass production of the Series 6 in Ohio during Q2, and has decided to bring some Series 4 capacity back to meet its 2+ year backlog.
Over the course of 2018, First Solar expects to produce its first 1 GW of Series 6 product.