First Solar Plans $300-Million Factory in Mesa, AZ

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First Solar Inc., one of the world’s top solar-panel makers, has announced that it plans to begin work next month on a $300-million, 600-employee factory on the former site of the General Motors Desert Proving Ground in Mesa, AZ.

First Solar, based in Tempe, AZ, expects annual output of photovoltaic panels at the new plant to have a total generating capacity of more than 250 million watts of electricity. About 400 to 500 people will be employed during construction of the plant, which will rely on solar power for electricity. The factory’s panels, which transform sunlight into electricity, will be produced primarily for power plants.

The factory will open next year and employ approximately 600 workers, earning an average annual wage of $48,000. First Solar is buying 135 acres from Scottsdale-based DMB Associates and has an option on an additional 100 acres. According to Mesa City Manager Chris Brady, the company will have the space to add more assembly lines that could create up to 4,800 jobs in the future.

The Mesa plant will be First Solar’s second manufacturing facility in the United States. Company officials expect this expansion to continue as the demand for solar power grows. “Solar power still makes up only a tiny fraction of the world’s energy,” company CEO Robert Gillette said during the announcement at company headquarters. “Our goal is to compete with fossil-fuel power on a sustainable basis.”

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