First Solar pledges big U.S. factory expansion thanks to climate law

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A worker builds a crate for solar panels at First Solar in Perrysburg, Ohio, July 8, 2022. REUTERS/Megan Jelinger

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Aug 30 (Reuters) – First Solar Inc (FSLR.O) will spend $1.2 billion to expand its solar panel manufacturing operations in the United States, creating hundreds of jobs, including with a new plant in the Southeast, it said the company Tuesday.

It is one of the first major corporate investments announced after the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a $430 billion policy package to combat climate change that President Joe Biden signed into law this month.

The IRA includes new tax credits for U.S.-made solar products, in support of Biden’s goal to decarbonize the electricity sector by 2035 with clean energy technologies made by American workers.

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The announcement is a sea change for the largest U.S. solar panel manufacturer, which earlier this summer said it was unlikely to build its next plant in the United States due to the lack of federal support.

“We believe that with the IRA we have a sustainable industrial policy foundation, a foundation that we have long advocated, that is comprehensive in its foundation and will empower the solar industry as a whole,” Chief said. Executive Mark Widmar during a talk with reporters.

First Solar said it would invest $1 billion in a new plant in the Southeast that will be operational by 2025. The company plans to select the location later this year.

It will also spend $185 million to expand production in Ohio, where it has two facilities and is building a third.

The expansions are expected to create 850 jobs and bring the company’s total U.S. workforce to 3,000.

First Solar shares rose more than 2% at $124.22 on the Nasdaq after the announcement.

About 90% of the panels installed in the United States are made abroad, but imports have been limited by pandemic-related supply chain disruptions, tariff threats and increased border controls to block supplies related to forced labor.

US property developers, meanwhile, have flocked to First Solar’s cadmium telluride products, in part because the technology does not rely on polysilicon, a raw material primarily made in China and used in the vast majority of panels. The company recently said it would sell out until 2024.

A shareholder said the company’s profits could reach double previous estimates by 2026.

“This dramatically lengthens and strengthens their runway,” said Shawn Kravetz, president of Esplanade Capital, which manages a solar-focused hedge fund.

The US solar industry and the Biden administration are under increasing pressure to move away from a reliance on China-made goods. But those products have helped the industry compete with fossil fuels like natural gas and coal and solidified solar as a regular energy source for more than a decade.

In June, Biden waived tariffs on panels from four Southeast Asian countries for two years and invoked the Defense Production Act to boost production domestically. But the IRA’s approval was widely seen as instrumental in launching investment in domestic manufacturing.

“This didn’t happen by accident — President Biden’s bold climate agenda and historic legislative victories have turned America into a magnet for clean energy production,” Ali Zaidi, deputy national climate adviser to the White House, said in an emailed statement. .

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Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by David Gregorio and Josie Kao

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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