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First Solar investing $680 million in new Lake Township facility, creating 500 jobs

Facility expects to be operational by the first half of 2023.
Credit: WTOL
First Solar

WALBRIDGE, Ohio — First Solar announced plans Wednesday to invest $680 million to build a new manufacturing facility in Lake Township, adjacent to an existing facility.

WTOL reported last week that the solar panel manufacturer was proposing the project at the property located at State Rt. 795 and Tracy Road. The vast undertaking is pending final approval from state and local leaders, and is expected to create at least 500 jobs.

“While designing and building this factory of the future we’re challenging ourselves to focus on the continuous improvement of our throughput, quality, and safety through automation without losing sight of our greatest strength, our people,” said Mike Koralewski, chief manufacturing operations officer for First Solar. “We see this as an opportunity for our associates to upskill, learn new technologies, continue to grow and develop themselves as our factories and products continually evolve.”

The 1.8 million square-foot expansion will increase the country's domestic photovoltaic (PV) solar manufacturing capacity by 3.3 gigawatts annually. The company plans to fund construction of its third U.S. manufacturing facility with existing cash resources.

The new plant is expected to be operational by the first half of 2023. It is contingent on permitting and approval of state, regional and local incentives.

When fully operational, First Solar's northwest Ohio footprint will produce 6 gigawatts of annual capacity, which the company believes will make it the largest fully integrated solar manufacturing complex outside of China.

The Rudolph-Libbe Group were serve as a design and build contractor for the project. Construction is expected to begin this summer.

In addition to the 500 jobs created by First Solar, 500 construction jobs will also be created.

“For nearly 20 years, First Solar has been a key member of our local business community,” said Rudolph Libbe CEO Tim Alter. “The Rudolph Libbe Group is honored to have a long relationship with them, starting with the construction of their first manufacturing facility and their first Lake Township manufacturing plant two years ago. We’re very pleased and proud to build for First Solar again as they continue to grow and bring jobs to our community.”

The facility will produce an enhanced thin film PV module for the utility-scale solar market in the U.S.

“We have said that we stand ready to support President Biden’s goal to transition America to a clean, energy-secure future, and our decision to more than double our US manufacturing capacity with this new facility is First Solar making good on that commitment,” said First Solar CEO Mark Widmar. “This facility will represent a significant leap forward in photovoltaics manufacturing, a true factory of the future. 

"It will leverage our advantaged position at the intersection of efficiency, energy yield, optimized form factor, and cost competitiveness, while leading our manufacturing fleet in delivering the highest efficiency and wattage, and the lowest cost per watt.”