Largest module manufacturer outside China invests billions of euros
Not only does China have a dominant market position in the rare earths sector, the country is also a leader in the production of solar modules. One of the few companies in the industry that manufactures outside the People’s Republic is First Solar, based in the U.S. state of Arizona.
This week it became known that the producer of thin-film modules wants to massively expand its manufacturing capacities in the USA. Investments of up to 1.2 billion U.S. dollars are planned, according to a press release. Approximately 850 new jobs are expected to be created as part of the expansion. First Solar CEO Mark Widmar wants the project to be understood as a reaction to the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 passed this month by the Biden administration. Among other things, the law is intended to promote the expansion of wind and solar energy. Widmar said his company intends to take on this task.
First Solar relies on cadmium telluride for its modules. The semiconductor material is capable of generating energy both in dim sunlight and under high temperatures, but its efficiency is lower than that of widely used silicon-based modules. The company recycles discarded modules at its plants in the U.S., Malaysia and Germany. Up to 90 percent of the semiconductor material can be recovered in the process, First Solar says.