First Solar plans USD-270m R&D innovation facility in Ohio
Manufacturing First Solar panels in Perrysburg, Ohio. Courtesy of First Solar, Inc.
US thin-film photovoltaics (PV) maker First Solar Inc (NASDAQ:FSLR) announced on Thursday that it intends to spend some USD 270 million (EUR 269m) on the establishment of a dedicated research and development (R&D) innovation centre in Ohio.
The new facility in Perrysburg, to be built near an existing factory of the company, will span over 1.3 million square feet. It will include a high-tech pilot manufacturing line that will be used for the production of full-sized prototypes of thin-film and tandem PV modules.
Presently, First Solar relies on a dual-purpose manufacturing line in Perrysburg to handle commercial module production and product development activities, which is a problem because the line cannot do both at the same time.
“This investment allows us to create an R&D sandbox separate from our commercial manufacturing operations, ensuring that we can accelerate innovation without the cost of taking mission-critical tools offline,” explained CEO Mark Widmar.
Pending the required permits and the approval of various incentives, the project should be finalised in 2024.
Right now, First Solar is undertaking an expansion of its module production capacity in Ohio, with the objective of reaching a US manufacturing footprint of more than 10 GW by 2025. Overseas, the company operates factories in Vietnam and Malaysia, and is building a production facility in India. When all these projects are completed in 2025, it expects to top 20 GW of annual global production capacity.