First Solar Inaugurates 3.3 GW Manufacturing Facility in India

American solar technology company First Solar, Inc has launched its new facility in Tamil Nadu, India, the country’s first fully vertically integrated solar manufacturing plant.

The facility, which has an annual nameplate capacity of 3.3 gigawatts (GW) and will directly employ approximately 1,000 people, produces First Solar’s Series 7 photovoltaic (PV) solar modules, which were developed at the company’s research and development centers in the US and optimized for the Indian market.

First Solar is unique among the world’s largest solar manufacturers for being the only US-headquartered company. The company’s tellurium-based semiconductor, which allows it to avoid dependence on Chinese crystalline silicon supply chains, is the second most common photovoltaic technology available today.

Representing an investment of approximately US$700 million, which includes US$500 million in previously announced US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) financing, the facility is First Solar’s sixth operational factory and expands the company’s global manufacturing footprint to four countries, including the US, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

Since the start of this decade, First Solar has embarked on a US$4.1 billion manufacturing expansion strategy that has seen it grow from approximately 6 GW operational in 2020 to over 16 GW global nameplate capacity at the end of 2023.

Net-Zero Water Withdrawal

In addition to its India facility, the company also commissioned its third US factory, located in Ohio, in 2023. The company is further growing its footprint in the US with a 0.9 GW expansion of its Ohio manufacturing complex and new factories in the states of Alabama and Louisiana, which are each expected to add 3.5 GW of annual nameplate capacity, once commissioned and ramped. The company expects to have 25 GW 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,” said Mark Widmar, CEO, First Solar. “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.”

The factory, which is located in an area of high baseline water stress, is believed to be the world’s first net-zero water withdrawal solar manufacturing facility.

Designed to minimize its impact on local water resources, the facility will rely entirely on tertiary treated reverse osmosis water from the city’s sewage treatment plant and have zero wastewater discharge.

Additionally, the factory is home to India’s first solar PV recycling plant. The company pioneered high value solar recycling, which provides closed-loop semiconductor recovery for use in new modules, while also recovering other materials including aluminum, glass, and laminates.

The Series 7 module produced by the new facility is the industry’s most eco-efficient with a carbon and water footprint that is approximately four times lower than crystalline silicon solar panels produced in China.

The company’s sustainable manufacturing approach uses 50% less energy and only a third of the water than an equivalent polysilicon module production facility would require.

The Minister for Industries, Promotions and Commerce of the Government of Tamil Nadu, Dr T R B Rajaa inaugurated the facility in a ceremony attended by the United States Ambassador to India, Eric Garcetti, and Scott Nathan, Chief Executive Officer of the US International Development Finance Corporation.