The Trump Administration's recent adoption of tariffs on imported solar panels had plenty of detractors in the solar industry. Arizona-based First Solar was not one of them. The company came out in support of the tariffs, and its bullish stance on American solar manufacturing was recently confirmed, when the company announced a new factory to be built in Ohio.
On April 29, First Solar announced plans to build a new solar module manufacturing facility near its existing Perrysburg, Ohio, flagship plant. The 1.2 gigawatt (GW) factory will produce the company’s advanced technology Series 6 thin film photovoltaic (PV) module.
The expansion plan calls for a 1 million square foot facility located in Lake Township, Ohio, a short distance from First Solar’s Perrysburg site. Construction is expected to begin in mid-2018 and the facility is expected to enter into full production by late 2019. Annualized capacity is expected to reach 1.2 GW.
The plan is contingent on confirmation of state and local incentive packages currently in negotiation. It is expected to create 500 new jobs in northwestern Ohio.
With the current plant’s Series 6 manufacturing capacity of 600 MW and the announced expansion, First Solar’s annualized U.S. manufacturing capacity for thin film PV solar modules will total 1.8 GW.
Company executives have alluded to the possibility of more manufacturing expansion in the future.
In a statement, Mike Koralewski, First Solar's senior vice president of global manufacturing, referenced "strong U.S. demand" and "recent changes in U.S. corporate tax policies," as factors contributing to the company's decision to expand.
First Solar is in a unique position in the industry. Unlike its competitors that rely on crystalline-silicon photovoltaic (CSPV) cells, First Solar utilizes a different technology, cadmium-telluride, which is not subject to the new tariffs. Even though the majority of its cells are also manufactured overseas, the company is able to avoid the 30 percent tariff placed on imported CSPV cells and modules.
Trump administration officials praised the decision, including U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
"This is exactly the result we had hoped for," he said.