First Solar to Build $300-Million Solar Module Factory

March 18, 2011
Arizona project will manufacture 250 MW/year of thin-film photovoltaic modules

First Solar Inc. is expanding its domestic production capacity with a new plant in Mesa, Ariz., where it will produce over 250 MW/year of advanced thin-film photovoltaic (PV) modules, starting in the second half of 2012. The $300-million project will be the second U.S. plant for First Solar, which already operates a 500-MW/year plant in Perrysburg, Ohio.

First Solar is the largest manufacturer of thin film solar modules in the U.S. It is headquartered in Tempe, Ariz., and it is building two utility-scale PV projects in Arizona, the 290-MW Agua Caliente project for NRG Energy and the 17-MW Paloma Solar Plant for APS. The company’s North American project list includes plans that represent over 2.4 gigawatts (GW) of generating capacity.

Construction will begin in the second quarter at the site of a former General Motors Corp. vehicle testing plant in Mesa. The completed plant will have its own 3-MW rooftop solar installation and an extensive PV testing facility on the 135-acre grounds.

The factory will use First Solar’s continuous manufacturing process with four process lines to transform glass sheets into completed solar module in under 2.5 hours.

“Supportive state and federal policies have provided the visibility needed for the U.S. to become our fastest-growing market, and the Mesa factory will enable us to meet that growing demand,” stated First Solar president Bruce Sohn. “Programs such as Department of Energy loan guarantees and the solar investment tax credit are crucial to helping the renewable energy industry quickly reach the scale needed to compete with fossil fuels. Over the long-term, programs like these facilitate the market growth and investment that will support the future expansion of this factory.”

The new Mesa facility is approximately 30 minutes from First Solar’s corporate headquarters in Tempe, Ariz., where it employs about 200 associates. First Solar also is currently building two utility-scale PV projects in Arizona, the 290MW Agua Caliente project in Yuma County for NRG Energy and the 17MW Paloma Solar Plant in Gila Bend for APS, which are expected to create more than 500 construction jobs. First Solar’s North American project pipeline includes more than 2.4 gigawatts (GW) of projects expected to create approximately 2,000 construction jobs and drive $6 billion of infrastructure investment over three years.

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