First Solar breaks ground on new Ohio solar panel plant

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labor secretary tours factory
United States Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh tours First Solar's factory in Lake Township, Ohio. (First Solar photo)

First Solar broke ground this week on its third manufacturing plant in northwest Ohio.

The new facility — a 3.3 gigawatt plant — will bring the company’s total annual production capacity in northwest Ohio up to 6 GW, which First Solar claims will make it the largest fully integrated solar manufacturing complex outside of China. The company is the largest manufacturer of solar panels in the country.

The groundbreaking, held Aug. 17, was attended by U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh and Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted, as well as other Ohio lawmakers and local officials.

“Ohio is a proud home to another First Solar expansion as we offer a great business environment, workforce and the resources to build a domestic solar energy competitor in a market dominated by Chinese imports,” Husted said, in a statement.

“This new facility represents another win as we expand high-tech manufacturing in northwest Ohio, creating great, higher-paying jobs that will be here for years to come.”

Most of the solar panels in the U.S. are imported, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. First Solar also has factories in Vietnam and Malaysia.

The new 1.8 million square-foot plant is expected to create more than 700 permanent jobs and employ more than 500 people in construction jobs over the next 18 months. The company is investing $680 million into the new plant.

First Solar is headquartered in Arizona, but all of its U.S. manufacturing takes place in Wood County just outside of Toledo. The first factory was built in Perrysburg in 2002. The second was built in 2019 in Lake Township. First Solar employs more than 1,600 people in Ohio. 

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