We’re investing in America’s future

- Mark Widmar

The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 has delivered precisely the durable solar industrial policy that we’ve long advocated for. It is a comprehensive foundation that enables the U.S. solar industry as a whole. It creates the scaffolding required to scale the full spectrum of activities, from critical minerals processing and investment in grid infrastructure to R&D and domestic manufacturing, required to effectively support energy security objectives, the fight against climate change, and to deliver America’s energy transition.       

When they passed and signed the Act into law, Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration effectively entrusted our industry with the responsibility of enabling America’s clean energy future. With this long-term solar industrial policy in place, we’re meeting the moment in a manner that is both timely and sustainable.

As it relates to First Solar, any decision to expand production capacity must be based on a sustainable foundation of strong demand, a repeatable vertically integrated manufacturing template, a proven technology platform, and a robust balance sheet. The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act does not replace the need for these fundamentals. 

As of our last earnings call in July, 2022, we had a record bookings backlog of over 44 GW; the fact that we’re the only company to scale thin film solar manufacturing globally speaks volumes about the capabilities of our manufacturing operations and manufacturing engineering teams; our record backlog speaks to the confidence our customers have in our technology, which has almost three decades of in-field experience; and we have the strongest balance sheet in the industry.  

This is why we plan to invest up to $1.2 billion in America’s future, while continuing to evaluate further investments in incremental capacity for the future.  

Those of you who have followed our journey over the years will know that we have invested in the United States since we were founded in 1999 and today’s announcement brings our total investment in US manufacturing to approximately $4 billion and over 10 GW of annual capacity by 2025. 

The investment includes up to $1 billion for a new, fully vertically-integrated manufacturing facility in the US Southeast which we expect to commission in 2025. We intend for the factory to have an annual capacity of 3.5 gigawatts (GW) of our next generation Series 7 module, which, when combined with our third factory in Ohio and its expanded capacity of 3.5 GW, gives us 7 GW of annual Series 7 capacity. 

Why is this noteworthy? Because this is solar technology made in America, for America. The Series 7 module was designed and developed at our R&D centers in California and Ohio specifically for the needs of the US utility-scale solar industry. 

The Series 7 platform combines First Solar’s thin film CadTel technology with a larger form factor and a new back rail mounting system to deliver improved efficiency, enhanced installation velocity, and further enhances lifetime energy performance for utility-scale PV projects. What’s more is that we’ve invested in a largely American supply chain for our US manufacturing footprint, allowing us to produce this next-generation module using as much as 90% domestic content, including American glass and steel. 

The investment also includes $185 million for upgrading and expanding our Northwest Ohio manufacturing footprint, currently the largest vertically-integrated complex of its kind in the Western Hemisphere, by 0.9 GWDC. Our third Ohio factory, which is in the final stages of construction and will come online in the first half of 2023, will have an annual capacity of 3.5 GW, while the cumulative capacity of our two operating facilities, in Perrysburg and Lake Township, will expand to 3.6 GW of Series 6 capacity.   

We started our journey with about 50 employees in 1999 and now expect to directly employ over 3,000 people in four states, putting us on the path to be the largest employer in the US solar manufacturing sector by 2025. What’s more is that we continue to demonstrate the value of domestic manufacturing – as we expand, so does our supply chain, which has made investments in key components such as steel and glass. Our $1.2 billion investment is expected to add an estimated $3.2 billion* in value to the US economy while supporting an estimated 15,000** direct and induced jobs across the country.

Today’s announcement is an important step towards achieving self-sufficiency in solar technology, which, in turn, supports America’s energy security ambitions, its deployment of solar at scale, and its ability to lead with innovation. 

We’re proud to be America’s Solar Company, and we’re proud to invest in America.  

Read the Press Release

* Assuming economic impact multiplier of $2.68 per $1.00 spent on manufacturing (Source: National Association of Manufacturers, using 2020 IMPLAN data)
** Assuming five workers added in the overall US economy for every one manufacturing job (Source: National Association of Manufacturers, using 2020 IMPLAN data)
Mark Widmar is the CEO of First Solar    


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