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As published in Toledo Business Journal - July 1, 2021


First Solar’s manufacturing facility in Lake Township

First Solar’s manufacturing facility in Lake Township


First Solar to invest $680M in expansion

Company to increase solar manufacturing capacity by 3.3 gigawatts

First Solar, Inc. will invest $680 million to expand America’s domestic photovoltaic (PV) solar manufacturing capacity by 3.3 gigawatts (GWDC) annually, representing an implied capital expenditure of approximately $0.20 per watt. The company intends to fund construction of its third US manufacturing facility, in Lake Township, with existing cash resources. The new facility will be one of the most advanced of its kind in the solar industry and will create 500 new jobs.

Contigent upon permitting and pending approval of 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 GWDC 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 GWDC.

“These investments in American-made solar technologies are the perfect embodiment of [the government’s] strategy to build out domestic manufacturing and supply chains for critical industries,” said US Department of Energy (DOE) 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.”


First Solar is expected to expand America’s domestic photovoltaic solar manufacturing capacity by 3.3 gigawatts annually

First Solar is expected to expand America’s domestic photovoltaic solar manufacturing capacity by 3.3 gigawatts annually


Unique among the world’s 10 largest solar manufacturers for being the only US-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 new plant 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.

“We have said that we stand ready to support President Biden’s goal to transition America to a clean, energy-secure future, and our decision to more than double our US manufacturing capacity with this new facility is First Solar making good on that commitment,” said Mark Widmar, chief executive officer, First Solar. “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.”

“A global leader in solar technology, First Solar has deep roots in the Toledo / northwest Ohio region. We are proud of the company’s existing presence and long-term commitment to this area. We look forward to supporting First Solar’s expansion plans in bringing new, high-tech jobs to the rapidly evolving clean energy industry as the company continues to grow its Northwest Ohio footprint,” said the Regional Growth Partnership (RGP).

According to officials, 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 (AI), and Internet of Things (IoT) 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. “We see this as an opportunity for our associates to upskill, learn new technologies, continue to grow, and develop themselves as our factories and products continually evolve.”

Meanwhile, Widmar noted that First Solar continues to evaluate opportunities to further expand its global manufacturing footprint and said, “Looking forward, strong demand for Series 6, a compelling technology roadmap, a strong balance sheet, and a largely fixed operating expense cost structure, are each catalysts as we evaluate the potential for future capacity expansion. While we have made no such decisions at this time, we are continuing to evaluate the potential for further domestic and international expansion.”

According to First Solar, its advanced thin film PV modules, designed and developed at its R&D centers in California and Ohio, set industry benchmarks for quality, durability, reliability, design, and environmental performance. Each module features a layer of Cadmium Telluride (CadTel) semiconductor that is only 3% the thickness of a human hair and the company continues to optimize the amount of semiconductor material used by enhancing its vapor deposition process. First Solar also operates an advanced recycling program that recovers more than 90% of CadTel for use in new modules. In addition to its Ohio manufacturing facilities, First Solar also operates factories in Vietnam and Malaysia.