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First Solar Builds New Solar Panel Plant in Ohio



WASHINGTON—America’s largest solar panel maker will announce plans to invest $680 million in a new Ohio plant on Wednesday, July 23, worth $680 million, one of the largest of its kind. The biggest bet on solar power generation in the country since China began dominating the industry a decade ago.

first solar power Inc.,

FSLR 2.05%

The city of Tempe, Arizona, said it plans to begin construction after the necessary permission has been granted and local incentives have been insured. and aims to open the factory in early 2023.

Factory near Toledo This will be the company’s third facility in Ohio. It is expected to initially produce enough solar panels to generate 3 gigawatts of electricity per year. or enough for about 570,000 houses

Combined, the three plants by 2025 will produce panels capable of producing 6 gigawatts of power per year. More than half of all solar panels the company estimates will be produced annually in the United States at the time, said company chief executive Mark Widmar.

Widmar said the investment reflects the growth of the American market and what he sees as the commitment of the bipartisan government to boost domestic production with alternative energy.

First Solar is America’s largest solar panel manufacturer.


Photo:

Dustin Franz from The Wall Street Journal

The pandemic has raised concerns about “Excessive dependence on one country” for industrial imports is considered necessary. Mr Widmar said

President Biden has said he wants to make U.S. electric grids carbon-free by 2035 and will try to boost the domestic industry through the federal purchase of American-made equipment.

“The management is committed to achieving the goal. ‘Buy American’ and create products made in America. This includes solar technology,” said a spokeswoman for the White House Office of Management and Budget.

The Energy Ministry said the investment was “The perfect form of President Biden’s strategy to build domestic production and supply chains for critical industries.”

Chinese firms have dominated the solar market since around 2011, beating rivals in the United States, Europe and Asia, who had their beginnings but lacked massive support and financing from Beijing and China’s local governments.

China’s fierce competition has driven solar panel prices lower and made solar power more competitive with natural gas. Some economists say it benefits consumers.

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Nicholas Bloom, an economist at Stanford University, said: “It looks like a solar power producer versus the people.”

First Solar is one of the few American solar companies that is still afloat. Specializes in building panels for large-scale installations in the desert. Chinese companies and others has also created a panel for the housing market.

Some environmental groups oppose large-scale projects. They say they are detrimental to desert ecosystems.

If properly planned The project could help save the lives of animals in the desert. Mr Widmar said “Wild animals appear all around them,” he said. “They can be safe havens.”

First Solar has lost losses in the last 5 years, but has been profitable since 2020.

First Solar expects a plant in Ohio. Including this plant in Walbridge, it will produce panels capable of producing 6 gigawatts of power per year by 2025.


Photo:

Dustin Franz from The Wall Street Journal

The new, automated plant is expected to employ 500 people. First Solar currently employs approximately 1,600 in the United States and 5,000 worldwide.

However, First Solar is still a relatively small player in the US market. expanding Imports account for 85%, according to energy consulting firm Wood Mackenzie.

After the construction of the new First Solar plant, the company will continue to import 40 percent of its panels from factories in Vietnam and Malaysia.

Widmar said the company wanted to continue to expand its production in the United States, which would help it save on shipping costs and strengthen its position as an alternative to Chinese imports.

“We are the only ones standing up against the Chinese attack,” Widmar said. “Many people wonder if we are patient. That’s the challenge.”

The company is receiving ongoing support from the US. Passing tax breaks and possibly renewing tariffs on stalls imported from China including increasing domestic demand

Solar power generation has grown to about 4.3% of the country’s electricity supply from 0.1% in 2010, according to Scott Sklar, an energy expert at George Washington University.

First Solar shares were up 1.3 percent Tuesday morning to $75.96. Shares are down about 25% this year.

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write to Bob Davis at bob.davis@wsj.com

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