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First Solar to invest $1.1B, create 700 jobs in Lawrence County

First Solar Inc. is investing $1.1 billion in a Lawrence County solar panel manufacturing facility, Gov. Kay Ivey announced Wednesday.

The company, an Arizona-based creator of photovoltaic solar modules, plans to create more than 700 jobs at Mallard Fox West Industrial Complex. The facility is expected to be commissioned in 2025, with a planned annual capacity of 3.5 gigawatts (GW).

The investment is part of First Solar’s plans of expanding its American manufacturing footprint to over 10 GW by 2025, according to the governor’s office.

In celebrating the company’s planned investment, Ivey advised that the project would hold “a major economic impact” in rural North Alabama.

“First Solar is a world-class manufacturer, and its solar modules are poised to play an increasingly important role in U.S. energy self-sufficiency,” said Ivey in a release. “I’m thrilled to see the company’s growth project headed to Lawrence County because I know it will create good jobs and have a major economic impact on this rural region.”

The company’s Alabama facility will help accomplish First Solar’s goal of decarbonizing the American economy and achieving self-sufficiency in reliable and competitive renewable energy technologies.

First Solar CEO Mark Widmar said, “This facility, along with its sister factories in Ohio, will form part of the industrial foundation that helps ensure this transition is powered by American innovation and ingenuity.

“Our commitment to Responsible Solar includes operating facilities that are among the cleanest, safest and most diverse in the country, and we’re pleased to bring our model of responsible solar manufacturing to Alabama. We are proud of the role that this facility will play in creating stable, good-paying manufacturing jobs in the state, demonstrating the economic and social value that clean energy can deliver.”

First Solar is the only company of its kind headquartered in the United States, and does not manufacture in communist China. Its Alabama project is anticipated to bring its total investment in American manufacturing to more than $4 billion.

Alabama Department of Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield hailed the project as being “great news” for the Yellowhammer State.

“As it works to develop the next generation of solar technologies, First Solar represents the kind of innovative, technology-forward company that can help power Alabama’s economy into the future,” said Canfield. “This investment supports sustainability and advances America’s energy security — and it’s great news for Alabama.”

First Solar’s Alabama investment brings its total number of direct jobs in the United States to over 3,000 people in four states by 2025. Upon the project’s completion, the company is expected to be the largest employer in the American solar manufacturing sector.

Tabitha Pace, president and CEO of the Lawrence County Industrial Development Board, touched on the collaborative effort among local stakeholders to make the project a reality.

“Our team, from the state down to the local level, has worked extremely hard to make this project a reality. First Solar will have a tremendous impact on our economy and region,” said Pace. “We look forward to building those relationships for a successful future.”

Tennessee Valley Authority President and CEO Jeff Lyash hailed the company’s investment in North Alabama.

“First Solar and TVA share a commitment to sustainability and innovation, as well as supporting our local communities. As the nation’s largest solar panel manufacturer, First Solar is bringing hundreds of quality jobs to the region,” said Lyash. “We are proud of our partnership with Joe Wheeler Electric Membership Corp., the State of Alabama and other economic development agencies to help make North Alabama the region of choice for their newest location.”

Dylan Smith is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL

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