by John Hugh DeMastri
First Solar announced plans to invest $1.2 billion into production of U.S.-made photovoltaic (PV) solar modules in Ohio and the southeastern U.S., joining a growing list of companies developing green energy initiatives in Republican-controlled states.
First Solar announced that it would invest $185 million into “upgrading and expanding” its manufacturing capabilities in three factories in northwestern Ohio, which the company describes as the “largest vertically-integrated complex of its kind in the Western Hemisphere,” as well as investing $1 billion in a new plant in the American Southeast, according to a press release. The solar company is the latest in a slew of billion-plus-dollar investments in green energy initiatives, spearheaded by automakers, seeking to take advantage of tax credits offered under the Inflation Reduction Act by constructing or retrofitting production facilities in Republican-controlled states.
“Solar’s going to be investible again,” said First Solar CEO Mark Widmar to The Wall Street Journal. Depending on how regulation is interpreted, First Solar’s new plant could generate anywhere from $140 million to $630 million, the WSJ reported, citing Roth Capital Partners.
In passing the #InflationReductionAct, Congress and @POTUS entrusted our industry with the responsibility of enabling America’s clean energy future. Today, we’re meeting the moment and intend to invest up to $1.2 bn in America: https://t.co/CuMgnC1a48 #AmericasSolarCompany pic.twitter.com/WLGayY8hc6
— First Solar (@FirstSolar) August 30, 2022
Despite this, “any decision to expand production capacity must be based on a sustainable foundation of strong demand, a repeatable vertically integrated manufacturing template, a proven technology platform, and a robust balance sheet,” First Solar spokesman Reuven Proença said to the Daily Caller News Foundation. “The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act does not replace the need for these fundamentals.”
First Solar, the largest U.S.-based producer of solar panels, had been intending to continue expanding fabrication in India and Europe, but the new investment will represent a nearly 75% boost in domestic production, according to The WSJ. The $1.2 billion investment represents a significant amount of the $1.5 billion in “cash, restricted cash, and marketable securities less expected debt at the end of 2022” that the company announced on July 28 in its second quarter financial results.
The new facility is targeting a production date of 2025, and is expected to add at least 850 jobs to the First Solar system, according to First Solar’s press release.
First Solar owns factories in Vietnam and Malaysia, with a factory being built in India, according to the press release. China controls nearly 80% of the global supply chain for solar panels, something that the Biden administration has considered problematic due to increasingly strained tensions between the two powers, the WSJ reported.
First Solar intends the new investment to produce about 4.4 gigawatts (GW) of panels per year, and uses a supply chain that doesn’t depend on silicon, according to the WSJ. The company sources 90% of its materials for U.S. factories from the U.S., Widmar told the WSJ.
Aside from First Solar, about 14 gigawatts of solar panel investment in the U.S. has been reported, with major manufacturers considering a combined deployment of another 15 gigawatts, the WSJ reported.
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John Hugh DeMastri is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.