First Solar locks in local steel supply for Ohio module facility

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First Solar’s capacity in Northwest Ohio will reach 6GW when its new facility ramps up. Image: First Solar.

First Solar has locked in steel supplies for solar modules made at its under-development manufacturing facility in Ohio, by signing a supply agreement with local provider Ice Industries.

Ice Industries revealed it had been selected to produce steel back rails for First Solar and is to sign a multi-year contract with the thin-film solar module specialist. As a result, the company is to make a US$9 million investment to construct a 150,000 square foot facility in Northwest Ohio, creating 120 jobs when it reaches full production.

Ice Industries already manufactures various brackets and fasteners for the US utility-scale solar market, however Howard Ice, chairman and CEO of Ice Industries, said the opportunity would allow the company to support the US’ “growing and important solar industry”.

First Solar is to open a new 3.3GW module manufacturing facility in Lake Township, Ohio, in H1 2023, taking the company’s total capacity in Northwest Ohio to 6GW.

Mike Koralewski, chief manufacturing operations officer at First Solar, said the company was committed to growing its US supply chain.

“Ice Industries’ investment in Ohio delivers yet more evidence that high-value solar manufacturing is good for America. Our decision to double down on our manufacturing footprint in the state is bringing in more jobs and more investment through our supply ecosystem. Investment in manufacturing creates a durable, long-term economic impact,” he said.

The investment comes amidst heightened scrutiny of solar supply chains in the US, with the country’s Department of Commerce having this week launched an investigation into alleged circumvention of anti-dumping and countervailing duties by solar manufacturers in Southeast Asia.

This has led to calls for complete solar supply chains to be developed in the US, with Hanwha Solutions having last week stated its intent to rebuild a US-based solar supply chain after increasing its stake in silicon provider REC Silicon.

The agreement also coincides with heightened metals and other commodity prices in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with this week’s edition of PV Price Watch – exclusive to PV Tech Premium subscribers – exploring recent pricing trends and forecasts.

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