Top US solar panel manufacturer to build third facility in Ohio

$680 million factory will be big boost for domestic solar panel production

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solar panels with cloud in the background

Solar panel manufacturer First Solar announced plans June 9 to build a third facility in northwest Ohio. The $680 million investment will double the company’s U.S. manufacturing capacity and create about 500 jobs. 

First Solar said with the addition of this new facility, it will have the largest fully vertically integrated solar manufacturing complex outside of China. The company is headquartered in Arizona, but all of its U.S. manufacturing facilities are in Wood County just outside of Toledo. It’s the largest manufacturer of solar panels in the country.

The 1.8 million square foot facility in Lake Township will add about 3 gigawatts of annual production capacity, bringing the company’s total annual capacity up to 6 gigawatts. The project, contingent upon permitting and other financial incentives, is expected to become operation in 2023.

According to reporting by the Sentinel-Tribune, the company’s tax abatement agreement and other financial deals will give the Lake Local Schools $1.1 million annually and Lake Township about $200,000.

Impacts

The U.S. solar industry saw record growth last year and is expected to quadruple its capacity in the next decade, according to a report released earlier this year by the Solar Energy Industries Association. 

Ohio played a big role in the growth of installations and manufacturing capacity. First Solar’s second manufacturing facility, also built in Lake Township, went into full production in early 2020 and accounted for much of the module manufacturing sector’s year-over-year growth, according to the SEIA report.

This sort of growth will be necessary if there is any hope to hit the Biden administration’s goals of cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.

Renewables make up less than 20% of utility-scale energy generation nationally, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data. Solar makes up 2% of utility-scale energy generation nationally. It ranks third in renewable energy generation behind wind and hydroelectric power.

“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 U.S. manufacturing capacity with this new facility is First Solar making good on that commitment,” said Mark Widmar, First Solar chief executive officer, in a statement.

The new facility should help mitigate challenges with domestic demand for solar panels and the international supply, First Solar said. 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.

First Solar produces thin film solar panels using a Cadmium Telluride semiconductor at its U.S. facilities. Once the new factory is up and running, the company expects to produce an average of one module every 2.75 seconds across its three-factory footprint.

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