First Solar establishes mounting system fab in Australia

The role that can be played by the solar industry in post-industrial areas hit by the decline of automotive manufacturing has been highlighted in Australia by local metalworking company IXL Group and U.S. solar giant First Solar.

Having commissioned IXL – which traditionally supplied metal stamping and roll forming to the domestic automotive industry – to supply framing structures for what First Solar says was Australia’s first utility scale solar project, the American module manufacturer and developer has helped finance a new IXL manufacturing facility in Adelaide to provide the mounting structures for its two projects in New South Wales.

The First Solar projects at Nyngan and Broken Hill, which amount to 155 MW in what First Solar describes as Australia’s largest utility scale solar projects to date, will use 100,000 mounting structures made with more than 6,000 tonnes of Australian steel at the new 4,000m2 factory which has opened in Salisbury South, in Adelaide’s northern suburbs.

Jack Curtis, First Solar’s vice president of business development, Asia Pacific, said in a press release to mark the official opening of the facility, the U.S. company was spending 56.3% of its projects costs for the two schemes on local procurement, creating 450 construction jobs – with 40 local positions at the new manufacturing site – and spending $66 million on Australian equipment.

First Solar originally turned to IXL’s expertise two years ago for its 10 MW Greenough River Solar Farm in Western Australia.

IXL’s new manufacturing facility was part financed by the Automotive New Markets Program which is joint funded by the national government and the state government of Victoria and delivered by the government of South Australia.