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Alabama lands 3.5 GW First Solar plant

The planned factory is expected to be commissioned by 2025, and would join three factories in Ohio.

First Solar said it plans to build its $1.1 billion, 3.5 GWdc factory in Alabama, its fourth U.S. photovoltaic (PV) solar module manufacturing facility. 

The new factory is part of a previously announced investment in scaling First Solar’s American manufacturing footprint to more than 10 GWdc by 2025.

The planned factory in Lawrence County, west of Huntsville in the northern part of the state, is expected to be commissioned by 2025. It would join three factories in Ohio, including one that is scheduled to come online in the first half of 2023.

“The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 has firmly placed America on the path to a sustainable energy future,” said Mark Widmar, chief executive officer, First Solar. 

First Solar said its latest investment is expected to bring the company’s total investment in U.S. manufacturing to over $4 billion.    

In addition to the new Alabama facility, the company previously announced that it is investing $185 million to upgrade and expand its Northwest Ohio manufacturing footprint by 0.9 GWdc. 

In October, First Solar also announced plans to invest $270 million in a dedicated R&D innovation center in Perrysburg, Ohio. 

First Solar estimated that its new investments would add at least 850 manufacturing and over 100 new R&D jobs, taking its total number of direct jobs in the U.S. to more than 3,000 people in four states by 2025.

Baked into the Inflation Reduction Act are provisions of the Solar Energy Manufacturing for America Act, which incentivizes U.S. production throughout the solar value chain. The incentives would provide new certainty for domestic solar manufacturers and developers, who seek a ‘Made in America’ product that is difficult to source.

Elements include:

  • 11 cents/watt for integrated modules
  • 7 c/w for non-integrated solar modules
  • 4 c/w for cells
  • $12/sq. m. of wafer
  • $3/kg of polysilicon
  • 40 c/sq. m. of polymeric backsheet

“First Solar’s citing the IRA in their decision makes clear how powerful a tool the IRA is in supporting the development of a resilient, sustainable solar supply chain,” said Michael Parr, executive director of the Ultra-Low Carbon Solar Alliance, which advocates for sustainable solar manufacturing. “We look forward to many more announcements from other manufacturers to build out a low-carbon solar supply chain in the U.S.” 

The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act has already led to a flurry of solar supply chain announcements.

First Solar’s announcement follows a previous commitment from QCells parent company Hanwha to double its U.S. module manufacturing capacity through a “multi-billion dollar” investment. Bloomberg reported on Aug. 15 that Hanwha QCells was recently scouting potential factory locations in Texas.

SPI Energy Co. said it signed a letter of intent to secure a 1.5 GW solar wafer manufacturing equipment. The company is targeting delivery and production of the solar wafers in the U.S. by 2023. It said it also plans to increase its solar wafer manufacturing capacity to 3 GW by 2024.

In its announcement, the company also cited the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 which created incentives for companies to produce solar wafers and solar modules in the United States. Solar wafer manufacturer will receive $12 per square meter of each solar wafer it produces.

“I am very grateful to see the bill passed,” as it will boost U.S. manufacturing and create jobs, said Xiaofeng Denton Peng, chairman, and CEO of SPI Energy. 

Days after the bill was signed into law, REC Silicon and Mississippi Silicon said they had committed to negotiating a raw material supply agreement and helping establish a low-carbon U.S. solar supply chain— a partnership the companies said is possible because of the legislation.

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