30 July 2021
First Solar expanding manufacturing footprint with 3.3GW plant in India
First Solar Inc of Tempe, AZ, USA is to invest $684m in a new, fully vertically integrated photovoltaic (PV) thin-film solar module manufacturing plant in India. Contingent upon permitting, and pending approval of Indian government incentives that are satisfactory to First Solar, the facility is expected to be built in the state of Tamil Nadu and commence operations in second-half 2023.
The planned facility is projected to have a nameplate capacity of 3.3GWDC. With First Solar’s expansion in the USA and India and optimization of its existing fleet, the firm expects that its nameplate manufacturing capacity will double to 16GWDC in 2024. Unique among the world’s ten largest solar manufacturers for being the only US-headquartered company, for not using a crystalline silicon (c-Si) semiconductor, and for not manufacturing in China, First Solar produces its thin-film PV modules using a fully integrated, continuous process under one roof and does not rely on Chinese c-Si supply chains, the firm notes. Its eco-efficient module technology, which uses its proprietary cadmium telluride (CadTel), is claimed to have the lowest carbon and water footprints of any PV module available.
“India is an attractive market for First Solar, and not simply because our module technology is advantaged in its hot, humid climate,” says CEO Mark Widmar. “It is an inherently sustainable market, underpinned by a growing economy and appetite for energy, with a well-defined goal that will need over 25GW of solar to be deployed every year for the next nine years,” he adds. “Crucially, it has combined its clean energy targets with effective trade and industrial policy designed to enable self-sufficient domestic manufacturing and true energy security. We also have many long-standing customers in the country that will be pleased to have access to an advanced PV module, which is made in India, for India.”
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has projected that India will overtake the European Union (EU) to become the world’s third largest consumer of electricity by 2030, as the country’s population and gross domestic product (GDP) continue to grow. As part of its climate targets, India has committed to ensuring that renewables will make up 40% of its energy portfolio by 2030, and the country is forecast to account for almost 20% of the world’s installed solar capacity by 2040.
“India stands apart in the decisiveness of its response to China’s strategy of state-subsidized global dominance of the crystalline silicon solar supply chain,” says Widmar. “The country’s comprehensive approach provides precisely the kind of level playing field needed for non-Chinese solar manufacturers to compete on their own merits, and should be a template for other likeminded nations,” he adds. “We’re very pleased to be able to support the sustainable energy ambitions of a major US ally in the Indo-Pacific region with American-designed solar technology.”
The facility will be designed using the manufacturing template established for First Solar’s recently announced factory in Ohio. Combining highly skilled workers with Industry 4.0 architecture, machine-to-machine communication, artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity, it will feature high degrees of automation, precision and continuous improvement.