US-based solar energy company First Solar has started building a 3.3GWdc manufacturing facility in Lake Township, Ohio.

The manufacturing facility has a total area of 1.8 million square feet and will be built with a $680m investment.

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It is expected to come online in the first half of 2023.

Once completed, the facility is expected to manufacture enhanced thin-film photovoltaic (PV) modules for the domestic utility-scale market.

First Solar CEO Mark Widmar said: “Today, we’re leading the efforts to revitalise American solar manufacturing and secure critical clean energy supply chains because reliable access to competitive, efficient solar panels is essential to our country’s future.

“Solar panels are the next crude oil, and we cannot be beholden to adversarial nations for our supply.

“We’re scaling US cleantech innovation by investing in research and development (R&D), ensuring that a uniquely American solar technology that was developed right here in Ohio remains competitively advantaged.

“And we’re taking it a step further by producing the next generation of solar panels designed and made in the USA for the American industry.”

Rudolph Libbe will build the manufacturing plant, which is expected to create 500 jobs during the construction phase for union tradespeople in north-west Ohio.

It is also expected to create 700 permanent jobs in the region and will increase the company’s total annual capacity in north-west Ohio to 6GWdc.

The facility will feature industry 4.0 architecture, machine-to-machine communication, artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity with the aim of increasing automation, precision and continuous improvement.

A ground-breaking ceremony for the plant was attended by US Labour Secretary Marty Walsh, Ohio Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted and US Representatives Bob Latta and Marcy Kaptur.

In April, Leeward Renewable Energy, a portfolio company of OMERS Infrastructure, acquired a utility-scale PV project platform with almost 10GW of capacity from First Solar.