First Solar Lands Major 5 GW Procurement Deal
First Solar recently landed a sizable order for 5 gigawatts of modules, serving projects in the U.S., Israel, and Poland.
Israel’s Energix Renewable Energies recently signed an agreement to procure 5 gigawatts (GW) of thin film modules from Arizona-based solar panel developer First Solar. The products will be delivered between 2026 and 2030, serving Energix’s 7-GW development pipeline across Israel, Poland, and the U.S.
First Solar’s panels at a distributed generation site. Image used courtesy of First Solar
The partnership also involves end-of-life recycling. Used modules from Energix’s projects will be processed through First Solar’s closed-loop recycling program, which recovers semiconductors for a new life in future modules. It also recovers other materials, such as glass, laminates, and aluminum.
The deal builds on a years-long partnership between the two companies. Energix has placed over 3.5 GW of orders with First Solar since 2017. With the existing orders, the deal will allow Energix to operate 7 to 9 GW of First Solar modules by 2030.
First Solar is one of the solar market’s top manufacturers worldwide, and the largest in the U.S. Energix is also a notable renewable energy player, with a portfolio topping 8.5 GW and 7 GW of storage and over 867 megawatts (MW) projects in commercial operation worldwide.
Thin-film solar panels at a manufacturing facility. Image used courtesy of First Solar
Details on the First Solar Deal
First Solar markets advanced thin-film cadmium telluride (CdTe) photovoltaic modules with high performance and durability, low degradation, and easy recyclability. The company claims its materials have a lower carbon and water footprint than other types of commercially available PV modules.
First Solar’s Series 7 modules target the utility-scale market, available up to 540 watts and with a 19.3% efficiency. They’re based on the company’s thin-film CdTe PV technology, an alternative to conventional crystalline silicon solar panels.
Georges Antoun, First Solar’s chief commercial officer, said Energix is one of the company’s biggest clients worldwide, and the partnership reflects a major market player choosing to de-risk its portfolio with long-term supply and pricing certainty.
Asa Levinger, Energix’s chief executive officer, added that the deal is the largest-ever for the company, signaling a strategic long-term relationship and a significant milestone for its growing global pipeline of clean energy projects.
First Solar says its integrated manufacturing process is designed to minimize exposure to risky solar supply chains identified by the U.S. government as produced by children or forced labor. The U.S. Department of Labor’s latest list of goods linked to labor violations specifically calls attention to the issues in critical clean energy supply chains and China’s use of forced labor in solar-grade polysilicon production. First Solar has signed on to the Responsible Business Alliance, a group of hundreds of companies across electronics, retail, auto, and other industries that have agreed to follow a standard code of conduct for ethical supply sourcing.
To that end, First Solar is pouring billions of dollars into its American supply chain and manufacturing capacity. Meanwhile, Energix is expanding its U.S. footprint through its Virginia-based subsidiary. According to its website, it has a pipeline of 6.46 GW under development in the U.S., in addition to 224 MW in operation, 416 MW under construction, and 410 MW in the late stages.
First Solar’s U.S. Expansion
First Solar is currently upping its manufacturing output in the U.S., investing around $1.3 billion to boost its nameplate capacity from 6.5 GW annually to 10.9 GW by 2026.
The company is investing $1.1 billion in a new 3.5 GW plant in Alabama (expected to be completed in 2024 or 2025), and it’s growing its existing manufacturing footprint in Ohio with another $185 million expansion (complete in 2024). Plus, it’s building a $370 million research and development facility in Ohio, slated to open in 2024.
First Solar’s first-quarter 2023 earnings presentation (slide 4) outlines its ongoing manufacturing expansion. Image used courtesy of First Solar
Last year, the company announced plans to scale its production of American-made solar modules by 4.4 GW, citing the Inflation Reduction Act as a factor in its U.S. expansion. The new capacity will help serve its Series 7 module line. The climate-targeted legislation pours billions into the solar industry through production and investment tax credits, research and development grants, and other programs.
In July 2022, right before the Inflation Reduction Act became law, First Solar announced a record backlog of 44.3 GW, facing high demand for its advanced PV modules. Bookings have risen substantially since then. The company reported in its first-quarter 2023 earnings that its contracted backlog tops 71.6 GW, extending through 2029.
So far this year, it has landed several orders from Canadian power producer Capital Power (1 GW), Texas-based Leeward Renewable Energy (2 GW for two years), Spain’s EDP Renewables (1.8 GW delivered through 2028), and British solar developer Lightsource BP (4 GW between 2026 and 2028). It also closed the first quarter with record production of 2.5 GW, including 170 MW of its new Series 7 product.
Meanwhile, the company is expanding its tandem solar cell technology, recently acquiring Swedish startup Evolar AB to add expertise supporting its thin-film perovskite solar cell development.