Center for American Progress

First Solar Thin Film Research and Development Center

First Solar Thin Film Research and Development Center

First Solar is spending $450 million to establish a research and development center focused on the production of thin film photovoltaic modules.

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A field of solar panels is seen in the middle of the desert.
A solar power plant using First Solar's thin film photovoltaic modules is seen in Desert Center, California, on April 5, 2013. (Getty/Tim Rue/Corbis)
  • Project name: First Solar Research and Development Center

  • Program: N/A

  • Law: Inflation Reduction Act

  • Recipient: First Solar

  • Investment amount: $450,000,000*

  • City: Perrysburg

  • State: Ohio

  • Congressional districts: 5, 9

  • Jobs created: 100

This profile is part of a project that finds and tracks the public and private sector investments generated or supported by three of the Biden administration’s economic laws. These laws make investments in the American people, helping to grow the middle class, lowering the cost of living, and setting up America to better compete and cooperate in the world. Pulling directly from several sources, this catalog provides users with publicly available information such as the number of jobs created, workforce training partnerships, and storytellers benefiting from particular projects, among other detailed information. The profile below expands on the economic, practical, and climate impacts of just one of the 35,000 investments that can be found in the Biden Administration Investment Tracker.

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This article contains an update.

First Solar is investing $450 million in a new research and development center in an already-existing manufacturing facility. This research will be focused on creation and development of environmentally friendly and high-performing thin film photovoltaic (PV) modules for semiconductors.

Historical context

  • “The company’s two existing facilities in Perrysburg and Lake Township comprise the largest vertically-integrated complex of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. They will now expand by 0.9 gigawatts (GWDC).” – WTOL11, October 27, 2022
  • “Designed and developed at its R&D centers in California and Ohio, First Solar’s advanced thin film PV modules set industry benchmarks for quality, durability, reliability, design, and environmental performance. The modules have the lowest carbon and water footprint of any commercially available PV technology today. Each module features a layer of Cadmium Telluride (CadTel) semiconductor that is only three percent the thickness of a human hair. Additionally, the company continues to optimize the amount of semiconductor material used by enhancing its vapor deposition process through continued investment in R&D focused on more efficient module technology with a thinner semiconductor layer. First Solar also operates an advanced recycling program that provides closed-loop semiconductor recovery for use in new modules.” – First Solar, October 27, 2022

Project summary

  • “In addition to expanding its Ohio footprint to over 7 GW of annual nameplate capacity this year, the solar technology and manufacturing company expects to invest over $2 billion in new manufacturing facilities in Alabama and Louisiana, which are expected to come online in 2024 and 2026, respectively. Additionally, First Solar is investing up to $450 million in R&D infrastructure in Perrysburg, Ohio, which is expected to be operational in 2024.” – First Solar, February 26, 2024
  • “The Tempe, Ariz.-based solar panel manufacturer announced plans Thursday for a $270 million research and development innovation center in Perrysburg. The new facility is believed to be the largest of its kind in the United States and is designed to enhance production of advanced thin film photovoltaics (PV).” – WTOL11, October 27, 2022

Outcomes, improvements, and practical impact

  • “‘We expect that this new facility will play a pivotal role in solidifying America’s leadership in the development and responsible production of high performance thin film photovoltaic semiconductors,’ Chief Technology Officer Markus Gloeckler said. ‘This facility will be designed with the future in mind and we expect that it will directly enable the next generation of advanced photovoltaics.’” – WTOL11, October 27, 2022
  • “First Solar says this new facility is believed to be the first of its scale in the United States and is expected to accelerate American leadership in the development and production of advanced thin film photovoltaics. It will also feature a high-tech pilot manufacturing line allowing for the production of full-sized prototypes of thin film and tandem PV models.” – 13ABC, October 27, 2022

Climate impact

  • The center will be promoting research and development of film modules that are the most environmentally friendly of their type, and the company already operates a recycling program for semiconductor chips. – First Solar, October 27, 2022

Official supporting statements

  • U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH): “With the Inflation Reduction Act providing new federal support for an all-of-the-above American energy strategy, the global leader in solar innovation is getting even bigger – all right here in Northwest Ohio. … First Solar’s $270 million investment in a state-of-the-art research and development center means new, good-paying jobs in our region’s growing energy manufacturing sector. As America looks ahead toward the future of energy development, Northwest Ohio will serve as the hub and our workers as the craftsmen.” – Office of U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, October 27, 2022 

Selected clips

  • “First Solar announces $270M research and development center in Perrysburg” – WTOL11, October 27, 2022
  • “First Solar to invest $270 million in Perrysburg research center” – 13ABC, October 27, 2022

*Correction, March 25, 2024: This profile has been updated to reflect the correct investment amount of $450 million in the research and development center, a figure which was made available after the publication of some of the sources quoted in this article. For that reason, some quotes refer to the original investment figure of $270 million.

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