First Solar names Alabama as site for its fourth U.S. solar manufacturing facility


First Solar, Inc. has selected Lawrence County, North Alabama, as the location for its fourth solar module manufacturing facility in the United States.

The new factory was announced in August, however, the exact location had not yet been determined. The recently announced Alabama factory is part of the company’s plan to scale its U.S. manufacturing footprint to over 10 GWDC by 2025. The new factory represents an investment of approximately $1.1 billion and is expected to be commissioned by 2025, with a planned annual capacity of 3.5 GWDC.

“First Solar is a world-class manufacturer, and its solar modules are poised to play an increasingly important role in US energy self-sufficiency,” said Kay Ivey, Governor of Alabama. “I’m thrilled to see the company’s growth project headed to Lawrence County because I know it will create good jobs and have a major economic impact on this rural region.”

First Solar, founded in 1999, has had a manufacturing presence in Ohio since 2002 when it produced 1.5 MW of modules and employed 150 people. In 2019 First Solar commissioned a second U.S. factory, and just recently it announced that a third factory is under construction. Representing an investment of $680 million, it will bring First Solar’s Ohio manufacturing capacity to 6 GW.  In October of this year, First Solar also announced that it plans to invest approximately $270 million in a dedicated R&D innovation center in Perrysburg, Ohio. The new facility is believed to be the first of its scale in the United States and is expected to accelerate American leadership in the development and production of advanced thin film photovoltaics.

U.S. supply chain

First Solar specializes in cadmium tellurium (CdTe) thin-film PV technology, which is primarily used in utility-scale installations. With the signing of an executive order by President Biden to boost America’s clean energy economy, coupled with the goal of attaining 100% carbon pollution-free electricity by 2030, there is a push for increasing U.S. manufacturing across the solar supply chain. First Solar intends to scale its U.S. manufacturing base in support of the effort to decarbonize the American economy and achieve self-sufficiency in reliable and competitive renewable energy technologies.

“The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 has firmly placed America on the path to a sustainable energy future,” said Mark Widmar, chief executive officer, First Solar. “This facility, along with its sister factories in Ohio, will form part of the industrial foundation that helps ensure this transition is powered by American innovation and ingenuity.”

First Solar estimates that its new investments in Alabama and Ohio of about $1.3 billion, will bring the company’s total investment in American manufacturing to over $4 billion. The Alabama facility will add over 700 new direct manufacturing jobs and over 100 new R&D jobs, taking its total number of direct jobs in the U.S. to over 3,000 people in four states by 2025, which is believed to make it the largest employer in the American solar manufacturing sector. By 2025, First Solar says it expects to support an estimated 15,000 indirect and induced jobs as a result of its ongoing and future manufacturing operations.

“Our team, from the State down to the local level, has worked extremely hard to make this project a reality,” said Tabitha Pace, president and chief executive officer of the Lawrence County Industrial Development Board. “First Solar will have a tremendous impact on our economy and region. We look forward to building those relationships for a successful future.”

In addition to its U.S. manufacturing facilities, First Solar also operates factories in Vietnam and Malaysia, and is building its first new manufacturing facility in India, which is scheduled to begin operations in the second half of 2023.

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