First Solar to open Arizonian PV module factory

The new facility, which will be located on a 135 acre site, will house four thin film PV module manufacturing lines. It has also been designed to accommodate future expansion. With this latest addition, First Solar’s production capacity will reach over 500 MW annually.

Construction is scheduled to begin in the second quarter of this year, and should last for around 12 months. The U.S. manufacturer says that approximately 400 to 500 construction jobs will be created. Meanwhile, module shipments are expected to begin in the third quarter of 2012.

Furthermore, the facility will include a three MW rooftop solar installation, and a ground-mounted PV testing facility. First Solar adds that the production output of the Mesa factory will be part of its pre-funded solar module collection and recycling program, under which it says it recycles up to 90 percent (by mass) of the material for use in new products, including new solar modules and new glass products.

"Supportive state and federal policies have provided the visibility needed for the U.S. to become our fastest-growing market, and the Mesa factory will enable us to meet that growing demand," said Bruce Sohn, president of First Solar.

"Programs such as Department of Energy loan guarantees and the solar investment tax credit are crucial to helping the renewable energy industry quickly reach the scale needed to compete with fossil fuels. Over the long-term, programs like these facilitate the market growth and investment that will support the future expansion of this factory."

Arizona Senator John McCain adds: "The U.S. has always led the world in innovation and Arizona is proud to be on the leading edge of the energy evolution. First Solar’s announcement to build a new factory in Mesa and deploy their domestically manufactured modules in solar projects like Agua Caliente in Yuma County will not only create job opportunities for Arizonans, but also represents another important step toward greater energy security."

First Solar is also currently building two utility-scale PV projects in Arizona: the 290 MW Agua Caliente project in Yuma County for NRG Energy; and the 17 MW Paloma Solar Plant in Gila Bend for APS.

The company adds that its North American project pipeline includes more than 2.4 gigawatts of projects, which are expected to create approximately 2,000 construction jobs and USD$6 billion of infrastructure investment over three years.