First Solar will build and operate a 100MW plus capacity CdTe thin-film plant in France for EDF Energies Nouvelles, equally sharing the capital and start-up costs, with EDF taking all production volumes for a 10-year period. In essence, First Solar has added ‘contract manufacturing’ or ‘foundry’ operations to its evolving business model.
According to the new partners, the new 100MW plus plant will require an initial capital investment of more than €90 million. Full production is planned for the second half of 2011. The location of the site is expected to be announced in the next few months and will also include a facility for recycling solar panels, France’s first such facility and Europe’s only solar panel recycling plant outside of Germany. At full production the entire facility is expected to employ approximately 300 people.
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The investment decision was announced in the presence of French Sustainable Development Minister, Jean-Louis Borloo. “I salute the decision of EDF Energies Nouvelles and First Solar to invest and create jobs in France’s solar sector, which has begun to take off since the Grenelle de l’Environnement,” he said. “This investment represents a veritable turning point for the photovoltaic industry and confirms that France is more than ever in a position to play a leading role globally.”
EDF Energies Nouvelles raised €500 million last year to finance its photovoltaic development ambitions, targeting 500MWp in PV installations by 2012. EDF had previously used First Solar’s thin film modules on several projects.
“This decision by First Solar and EDF EN is a sign of our shared commitment to the future of solar electricity,” noted Mike Ahearn, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of First Solar. “We commend President Nicolas Sarkozy’s leadership in promoting long-term policies to build a more sustainable energy future not just for France but the world. Countries that create market frameworks that enable solar and other renewable energies to achieve commercial scale will reap the greatest benefits in private sector investment, technological innovation and job creation.”
This is the first new capacity expansion program First Solar has announced since initiating construction of multiple new plants in Malayasia, several years ago. With this new partnership, the first the company has undertaken, the CdTe leader will have manufacturing operations in the U.S., Germany, Malaysia and now France.