By the BF Staff
From the July/August 2021 Issue
First Solar, has announced that it will invest $680 million to expand domestic thin-film photovoltaic (PV) solar manufacturing capacity by 3.3 gigawatts (GW) annually. The company intends to fund construction of its third U.S. manufacturing facility, in Lake Township, OH, with existing cash resources.
Contingent upon permitting and pending approval of the State of Ohio, JobsOhio, various state, regional and local incentives, the new facility is expected to commence operations in the first half of 2023. It is projected to achieve its throughput entitlement (modules produced per day) by the end of the same year with over 3 GW of nameplate capacity, and is expected to attain full nameplate capacity, based on the company’s module efficiency roadmap, in 2025.
When fully operational, the facility will scale the company’s Northwest Ohio footprint to a total annual capacity of 6 GW, which is believed to make it the largest fully vertically integrated solar manufacturing complex outside of China.
“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 U.S. 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.”
Unique among the world’s 10 largest solar manufacturers for being the only U.S.-headquartered company and for not using a crystalline silicon (c-Si) semiconductor, First Solar produces its ultra-low carbon thin film PV modules using a fully integrated, continuous process under one roof.
The 1.8 million square foot facility is projected to directly create approximately 500 jobs and is expected to produce an enhanced thin film PV module for the utility-scale solar market in the US, which is anticipated to have a higher efficiency and wattage in a larger form factor. The additional production capacity from this new facility, when available, is also expected to help mitigate the challenges currently being experienced in the global ocean freight market, by reducing the transoceanic gap between international supply and domestic demand.
“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,” said First Solar CEO Mark Widmar.
The facility will be one of the most advanced of its kind in the solar industry, allowing First Solar to produce an anticipated average of one module roughly every 2.75 seconds across its three-factory Ohio footprint once it achieves its full production capacity. The facility will combine highly skilled workers with Industry 4.0 architecture, machine-to-machine communication, artificial intelligence and Internet of Things connectivity to produce a higher degree of automation, precision and continuous improvement.
“While designing and building this factory of the future we’re challenging ourselves to focus on the continuous improvement of our throughput, quality and safety through automation without losing sight of our greatest strength, our people,” said Mike Koralewski, chief manufacturing operations officer, First Solar.
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