First Solar to inject $1.1bn in Louisiana with new PV solar module facility
In a strategic move signaling major growth in the US solar manufacturing sector, First Solar, Inc. (Nasdaq: FSLR) has zeroed in on the Acadiana Regional Airport in Iberia Parish, Louisiana as the site for its upcoming fifth fully vertically integrated manufacturing hub. This pioneering initiative, touted as one of the grandest capital ventures in the region’s annals, entails an investment scaling up to $1.1 billion. This hefty input aims to enhance America’s prowess in manufacturing its photovoltaic (PV) solar modules. Slated for a grand opening in the first half of 2026, the establishment is poised to augment First Solar’s nameplate manufacturing capacity by a formidable 3.5 gigawatts (GW), reaching an impressive total of 14 GW within the US by 2026.
The Economic Ripple Effect: Jobs and Growth
This investment promises to be a boon for Louisiana’s workforce, projecting the creation of over 700 direct manufacturing job opportunities. As First Solar, already recognized as America’s top employer in the solar manufacturing realm, expands its operations, it forecasts a rise to over 4,000 direct employees by 2026. This includes the addition of 850 manufacturing roles in Alabama and Ohio, along with the introduction of over 100 R&D positions in Ohio.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards remarked, “First Solar’s selection of Iberia Parish for its newest solar panel production facility leaves no doubt that Louisiana is leading the global energy transition… It is proof positive that Louisiana’s ‘all-of-the-above’ approach to energy is growing and diversifying our economy.”
A Unique Manufacturing Vision
What sets First Solar apart from the top ten global solar manufacturers is its US-based headquarters and non-reliance on manufacturing in China. Its distinctive tellurium-based semiconductor sidesteps any dependence on the Chinese crystalline silicon supply chains. This technology ranks as the second most prevalent photovoltaic option in the market today.
First Solar’s CEO, Mark Widmar, expressed, “We are pleased to partner with Louisiana as we lean into our commitment to creating enduring value for America… Louisiana’s ability to deliver the talent we need stood out, thanks to its extensive workforce development initiatives and the presence of academic institutions such as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette which now features a world-class solar energy lab.”
First Solar’s Growth Trajectory
Kicking off this decade, First Solar has actively been riding on a $4.1 billion manufacturing expansion journey. This pursuit has elevated its global nameplate capacity from a 6 GW baseline in 2020 to an astounding 13 GW presently in operation. Anticipation is rife with roughly 12 GW of capacity set to emerge in the US and India between late 2023 and 2026. Alongside the Louisiana site, First Solar recently unveiled its third Ohio factory and has plans on the anvil for expanding its Alabama and Ohio bases by 2024. Another highlight is the forthcoming R&D innovation center in Perrysburg, Ohio, backed by an investment of up to $370 million.
Focusing on the technological edge, the Louisiana factory will be producing First Solar’s Series 7 modules, which are set to comply with 100% US-made components as delineated by the US Department of Treasury’s guidance. These Series 7 modules, a significant chunk of First Solar’s production, are currently assembled at its Ohio facility using US-sourced glass and steel.