PERRYSBURG – First Solar Inc. plans to invest approximately $270 million in a dedicated research and development innovation center in Perrysburg.
The new facility is believed to be the first of its scale in the United States and is expected to accelerate American leadership in the development and production of advanced thin film photovoltaics, according to a Thursday news release.
The new R&D center will be located near First Solar’s existing Perrysburg manufacturing facility, covering an area of approximately 1.3 million square feet.
Wood County Economic Development Commission Director Wade Gottschalk said that the center will create 100 jobs and give $1.3 million a year for 10 years to the Rossford school district, pending tax abatement agreements. Penta Career Center is expected to receive $90,000 annually for the next 10 years.
“First Solar has been an amazing corporate citizen for Wood County for over two decades,” Gottschalk said. “We’re extremely pleased to see they’re considering another investment in Wood County.”
There are many reasons why the area continues to be a good place for First Solar to expand and invest in, he said.
“They started here,” Gottschalk said, adding that the area also has a rich glass history that is a component to First Solar operations. “We’re a very business-friendly county with great location assets.”
Attractive infrastructure that is already in place includes water and sewer, roads and electricity, Gottschalk said.
“Based on all the wins we’ve had all over the county, it’s just another example of Wood County being business friendly, and we get things done,” he said.
The new R&D center will feature a high-tech pilot manufacturing line allowing for the production of full-sized prototypes of thin film and tandem PV modules. Contingent upon permitting and pending approval of various state, regional and local incentives, the facility is expected to be completed in 2024.
“With a record shipment backlog and consistent demand for our modules, we face the twin challenges of optimizing existing and planned production capacity to deliver on our commitments, while ensuring that our technology roadmap does not lose momentum,” said Mark Widmar, First Solar chief executive officer.
“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,” he said.
First Solar, which has already invested over $1.5 billion in R&D, currently operates a dual-purpose manufacturing line at its Perrysburg facility which handles both commercial production of solar modules and the company’s product development efforts. The line, however, cannot handle both activities simultaneously.
“We expect that this new facility will play a pivotal role in solidifying America’s leadership in the development and responsible production of high-performance thin film photovoltaic semiconductors,” said Markus Gloeckler, First Solar’s chief technology officer. “This facility will be designed with the future in mind, and we expect that it will directly enable the next generation of advanced photovoltaics.”
Thursday’s announcement is the latest in First Solar expansion and upgrade news in Wood County.
In August, the company announced a $185 million upgrade of its two operating facilities in Perrysburg and Lake Township.
Also in that August release, First Solar announced plans to expand its third factory, which is currently under construction in Lake Township and expected to open early next year.
Last year, First Solar announced the $680 million Lake Township expansion project that will create an additional 500 jobs. When the 1.8-million-square-foot expansion is complete, First Solar will have 2,000 total employees working in Wood County.
First Solar is unique among the world’s 10 largest solar manufacturers for being the only US-headquartered company and only manufacturer of thin film PV modules, according to the news release. The company’s consistent investment in developing cadmium telluride (CadTel) since 1999 has made the semiconductor the second most common PV technology in the world after crystalline silicon, while safeguarding vital intellectual property related to the semiconductor material and its unique manufacturing processes.
In addition to its Ohio manufacturing facilities, First Solar also operates factories in Vietnam and Malaysia, and is building its first new manufacturing facility in India, which is scheduled to begin operations in the second half of 2023. On completion of its expansion plans in the United States and India, the company expects to have over 20 GWDC of annual global manufacturing capacity in 2025.