The largest American solar panel maker is going to build a $270M thin film PV R&D center

First Solar, the largest solar panel maker in the United States, today announced that it will invest around $270 million in a dedicated thin film PV R&D innovation center. The new facility, which will be in Perrysburg, Ohio, is expected to be the first of its scale in the United States.

First Solar’s new R&D center will be near its existing Perrysburg manufacturing facility, and cover an area of around 1.3 million square feet. It will feature a pilot manufacturing line that will be able to produce full-sized prototypes of thin film and tandem PV modules. The facility is expected to be completed in 2024.

Mark Widmar, chief executive officer of First Solar, said:

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.

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.

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.

The Tempe, Arizona-headquartered company’s consistent and ongoing investment in developing cadmium telluride since 1999 has made the semiconductor the second most common PV technology in the world after crystalline silicon.

“Cadmium telluride is very good at capturing sunlight and converting it to energy. It’s also the cheapest type of commercial solar panels on a dollars per watt basis. Its lifetime outdoors is the same or a little better than mono or polycrystalline modules (30+ years). Its sunlight-to-electricity efficiency is slightly less than silicon,” Ken Zweibel, former manager of the Thin Film PV Partnership at NREL (retired), explained to Electrek. [Thank you, Ken, for the clarification. – Eds.]

In August, First Solar announced that it would invest up to $1.2 billion to ramp up production of US-made solar panels. The announcement followed the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act, which incentivizes domestic clean energy manufacturing.

Read more: The largest American solar panel maker pledges to build $1B factory in US Southeast

Photo: European Commission/© substancep –

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.