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11 January 2024

First Solar inaugurates $700m, 3.3GW PV module manufacturing plant in India

Cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin-film photovoltaic (PV) module maker First Solar Inc of Tempe, AZ, USA says that its new facility in Tamil Nadu, India, the country’s first fully vertically integrated solar manufacturing plant, has been inaugurated by Dr T R B Rajaa (Minister for Industries, Promotions and Commerce of the Government of Tamil Nadu) in a ceremony attended by Eric Garcetti (the US Ambassador to India) and Scott Nathan, CEO of the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC). “We are pleased that First Solar chose Tamil Nadu for this landmark investment, solidifying our state’s position as India’s hub for manufacturing,” said Rajaa. “This factory sets a high bar for sustainability and advanced manufacturing and has created high-value jobs as a result of its presence in our state, all while supporting India’s ambition to become self-sufficient in solar technology.”

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Picture: Minister for Industries, Promotions and Commerce of the Government of Tamil Nadu, Dr T R B Rajaa, the US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti, and Scott Nathan, CEO of the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) inaugurated the facility.

The facility, which has an annual nameplate capacity of 3.3GW and directly employs about 1000 people, produces First Solar’s Series 7 modules, which were developed at the firm’s R&D centers in the USA and optimized for the Indian market. First Solar claims to be unique among the world’s largest solar manufacturers for being the only US-headquartered company. Its tellurium-based semiconductor material, which allows it to avoid dependence on Chinese crystalline silicon supply chains, is the second most common photovoltaic technology available. “One month ago in Dubai, COP28 participants issued a bold call for the world to transition away from fossil fuels, to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050,” said Garcetti at the inauguration ceremony. “This First Solar production facility will help advance our global transition to cleaner, greener energy, and stands as a shining example of what can be achieved when the United States and India work together – across government and private sectors – to achieve lasting climate action.” Representing an investment of about $700m, which includes $500m in previously announced DFC financing, the facility is First Solar’s sixth operational factory and expands the firm’s global manufacturing footprint to four countries, including the USA, Malaysia and Vietnam. “The United States is leveraging American innovation and technology to diversify critical energy supply chains around the world and drive economic growth in India. That’s good for the United States and it’s good for India,” says DFC’s CEO Scott Nathan. “This $500m in financing reflects the increasing strength of our partnership with India – DFC’s largest market and a like-minded partner with a dynamic private sector.” Since the start of this decade, First Solar has embarked on a $4.1bn manufacturing expansion strategy that has seen it grow from about 6GW operational in 2020 to over 16GW global nameplate capacity at the end of 2023. In addition to its India facility, the firm also commissioned its third US factory, located in Ohio, in 2023. It is further growing its footprint in the USA with a 0.9GW expansion of its Ohio manufacturing complex and new factories in the states of Alabama and Louisiana, which are each expected to add 3.5GW of annual nameplate capacity, once commissioned and ramped. The firm expects to have 25GW of global annual nameplate capacity by 2026. “The inauguration of this landmark manufacturing facility and the launch of commercial shipments to customers in India is a crucial milestone in our journey to long-term and sustainable growth,” says First Solar’s CEO Mark Widmar. “The speed with which we were able to build and commission this facility is a testament to the policies of India’s Federal and the Tamil Nadu state governments,” he adds. “We are proud of our associates who worked tirelessly to replicate and adapt our advanced solar manufacturing template for India,” Widmar continues. “Thanks to their work, our newest facility doesn’t just set standards for our global manufacturing footprint, but for our industry.” Located in an area of high baseline water stress, the factory is believed to be the world’s first net-zero water withdrawal solar manufacturing facility. Designed to minimize its impact on local water resources, it will rely entirely on tertiary treated reverse osmosis water from the city’s sewage treatment plant and have zero wastewater discharge. Also, the factory is home to India’s first solar PV recycling plant. First Solar pioneered high-value solar recycling, which provides closed-loop semiconductor recovery for use in new modules, while also recovering other materials including aluminium, glass and laminates. The Series 7 module produced by the new facility is claimed to be the industry’s most eco-efficient, with a carbon and water footprint that is about four times lower than crystalline silicon solar panels produced in China. The firm’s sustainable manufacturing approach uses 50% less energy and only a third of the water than an equivalent polysilicon module production facility would require, it is reckoned. See related items:

First Solar breaks ground on $1.1bn 3.5GW Louisiana factory

India awards financial incentives to First Solar’s Tamil Nadu manufacturing facility

First Solar selects Alabama for fourth US manufacturing facility

First Solar expanding manufacturing footprint with 3.3GW plant in India

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