First Solar announces fifth U.S. manufacturing facility


First Solar, major producer of thin-film solar panels, has announced plans to add a fifth manufacturing facility in the United States, investing $1.1 billion in 3.5 GW of annual production capacity. Once operational in 2026, the factory is expected to contribute to the company’s 14 GW in the U.S. and 25 GW globally. 

The factory will produce First Solar’s Series 7 modules, which are expected to be manufactured with 100% U.S.-made components identified in the current domestic content guidance issued by the US Department of Treasury. 

The company has over 78 GW in its order backlog, driving the addition of more factories. First Solar continues to book module orders well into the future as demand for U.S.-made solar components remains red hot due to domestic manufacturing incentives created by the Inflation Reduction Act and an increased emphasis on renewables in utilities and corporate procurement plans. 

Mark Widmar, chief executive officer, First Solar celebrated the company’s growth, highlighting, “the industry’s strongest balance sheet, a repeatable vertically integrated manufacturing template, and a proven technology platform.” 

Over the last year, First Solar has announced over $2.8 billion in capital investment in 7.9 GW of manufacturing capacity additions, all in the United States. The company previously announced an approximately $1.3 billion investment in a new 3.5 GW manufacturing facility in Alabama and a 0.9 GW expansion of its existing manufacturing footprint in Ohio, both of which are expected to be completed at the end of 2024. 

“By expanding America’s solar manufacturing base, and the value chains that support it, we are working to ensure that the U.S. enters the next decade in a position of strength, fully capable of producing the technology it needs to complete its transition to a sustainable energy future,” said Widmar. 

First Solar currently has 2,500 employees across the country. The company estimates that the new facility will add over 700 new jobs, which when combined with the 850 new manufacturing jobs expected to be created in Alabama and Ohio and over 100 new R&D jobs planned in Ohio, takes its total number of direct jobs in the U.S. to over 4,000 people across the country by 2026. The company said the newest facility, of which the location is yet to be disclosed, will be contingent on necessary permits and approvals.

First Solar released its Q2 earnings report for 2023. Highlights included:

  • Net sales of $811 million, $262 million growth quarter-over-quarter
  • Net income per diluted share of $1.59, up from $0.40 in the previous quarter
  • Net cash balance of $1.5 billion, decrease from $2 billion in previous quarter
  • YTD net bookings of 21.1 GW; 8.9 GW in Q2

“The second quarter of the year continued the steady progress established in the first, as we ramped up production and delivery of our next-generation Series 7 modules, reinforced our global leadership in thin film PV with a strategic acquisition, and continued our strong bookings and ASP momentum,” said Widmar on the earnings call.

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