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Published: Thursday, 10/14/2010

First Solar to build 2nd plant in United States

First Solar's administrative offices are in Perrysburg. First Solar's administrative offices are in Perrysburg.

First Solar Inc., a Toledo-born solar-panel manufacturer, announced Thursday that it will build a second U.S. plant, but it didn't say where.

It wasn't immediately clear whether the Tempe, Ariz., firm would build a new factory near its only North American plant — which is in the Toledo suburb of Perrysburg Township.

The company started in Toledo decades ago under the name of Solar Cells, and was purchased by a Wal-Mart Stores heir Sam Walton and moved its headquarters to Arizona.

First Solar makes thin-film photovoltaic modules at several plants worldwide. It announced it will build two four-line manufacturing plants to boost its annual capacity to nearly 500 megawatts to meet demand.

The factories, the company said, "are expected to be built in the United States and Vietnam and be completed in 2012." Each plant would employ about 600 workers. Negotiations and site assessments, it said, are under way in both countries.

The factories are in addition to previously announced add capacity at its factories in Kulim, Malaysia; Frankfurt, Germany; and Blanquefort, France. The company completed this year an expansion at the Perrysburg Township research and manufacturing facility, which now employs 1,100 of the firm's 1,500 U.S. workers.

The newly added capacity will nearly double production capacity from 1.4 gigawatts in 2010 to more than 2.7 gigawatts in 2012, First Solar said.

"These expansions provide proximity to growing U.S. demand while supporting our roadmap to drive down the cost of clean, sustainable solar electricity," company Chief Executive Rob Gillette said in a statement.

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