Despite looming headwinds in the price of solar modules, First Solar is not slowing down. Following a statement last Thursday to pv magazine that the company’s new factory in Ohio “remains on plan,” First Solar officially broke ground on the massive factory on Friday.
Local firm, Rudolph Libbe, is leading construction on the US$400 million factory in Lake Township, Ohio, near First Solar’s existing factory and R&D center plant in Perrysburg. The plant will feature one million square feet of floor space and will have the capacity to pump out 1.2 GW of the company’s new, large-format Series 6 modules each year.
The new factory will employ 500 workers and will be bigger than any solar manufacturing facility currently in existence in the Western Hemisphere, including the Tesla/Panasonic “gigafactory” in upstate New York. First Solar’s ambition is only exceeded by that of Hanwha Q Cells, which has announced plans to build a 1.6 GW factory in Northern Georgia.
First Solar’s announcement of the groundbreaking was muted, with a sole Twitter post and photo being the only word from the company about this milestone.
The new factory, as well as the U.S. factories being planned or put online by JinkoSolar and Hanwha Q Cells, come at a difficult time. Module prices are expected to plummet during the second half of 2018 due to China’s recent slowdown of policy support for solar, with BNEF predicting a 34% decline in module prices over the course of 2018.
However, First Solar is betting heavily on the success of its new, large-format Series 6 module. So far, all indications are in the company’s favor, as the product is already being installed in PV plants and First Solar is sold out through 2020, even with the 7.6 GW of manufacturing capacity that it expects to have online by that time.