NEW IBERIA, LA. — First Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR), an Arizona-based provider of solar panels, has broken ground on a $1.1 billion manufacturing facility in New Iberia, located just southeast of Lafayette in the south-central part of Louisiana.
The facility will be located on the grounds of Acadiana Regional Airport and will ultimately encompass more than 2 million square feet. The project, which local community leaders and members of the development team believe is the biggest in the history of the parish, is expected to generate about 700 new permanent manufacturing jobs within the local economy.
First Solar anticipates that the plant will be fully operational and able to begin shipping products by the first half of 2026. When that scenario materializes, the company’s total manufacturing capacity will increase from 3.5 gigawatts to approximately 14 gigawatts in the United States and 25 gigawatts globally.
At full capacity, the plant will be capable of churning out more than a dozen panels per minute.
To secure the project in Iberia Parish, the State of Louisiana offered First Solar an incentives package that includes the workforce solutions of LED FastStart, a Louisiana Economic Development program for training and onboarding workers. Additional incentives include performance-based grants for site development and infrastructure improvements totaling $30 million. All grants are contingent upon meeting investment, employment and payroll targets. The company is also expected to participate in the state’s Quality Jobs program.
The move follows the November 2022 announcement of First Solar’s plans to open a $1.1 billion solar module manufacturing facility in northern Alabama, which will have a similar production capacity and is slated to come on line by the end of 2025.
“We are creating enduring value for the United States by building a robust solar manufacturing base and the value chains that enable it,” says Mark Widmar, CEO of First Solar. “This delivers jobs and economic value today and establishes the foundations needed for the country to enter the next decade with a secure supply of solar energy technology.”
“First Solar choosing our state for its newest solar panel production facility solidifies Louisiana’s place as a leader in the global energy transition,” adds Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Rudolph Libbe Inc. will serve as the general contractor for the project and has already engaged with Lafayette-based LEMOINE to assist with early site work. The new facility is expected to create 500 construction jobs in Louisiana over the next 18 months.
Based in Tempe, Arizona, Firt Solar currently employs about 2,500 people across the country and expects that number to grow to 4,000 by 2026. The company’s stock price opened at $161.75 per share on Monday, Sept. 25, the first full day of trading following the announcement of the Louisiana facility, up from $129.20 per share a year ago.
— Taylor Williams