First Solar ramps up new production lines in Perrysburg

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Perrysburg (13abc Action News) - An update to a story we've been following for months. First Solar has unveiled its new product, and we got a look at it Tuesday. The company made a massive investment in the new product line, and the hope is that it will pay off in a big way.

The new Series 6 solar module is being built in Perrysburg. It is three times bigger than its predecessor and it's expected to help expand First Solar's reach around the globe. Steve Krum is the Director of Global Communications,"A year ago we realized we needed to make some serious strategic changes. Six months ago our assembly line was virtually stripped down to bare cement."

Fast forward to today and it's a much different story. The new modules are now in what's known as the process development mode, basically the test phase. Mike Koralewski is the Senior Vice President of Global Manufacturing and he say they will hit the market in the second quarter of next year, "You get more watts per panel which means your installation rate and costs go lower, which makes us more competitive."

The modules are used in large-scale solar power plants around the globe. While the product is sold worldwide, the company is committed to the place where it all began. Koralewski says the new line represents a nearly $180 million capital investment at the Perrysburg plant, "Our Perrysburg facility will have an annualized capacity of over 600 megawatts when it's fully done."

Krum says workers are still building Series 4 modules, the new module's predecessor, but that will soon change, "As Series 6 ramps up and we ramp down the Series 4 here, all our workers will transfer to the new line."

Employment levels at first solar are down from a high point of more than 1,000, but ever since the decision to build a new product was made, Krum says the numbers have been steady, "When we stabilized at the end of 2016 we had about 750 workers and that was down from about 1,100. Those 750 workers were here the whole time and have been part of the transition."

Krum adds that those workers have been a critical part of the successful transition,"What it took to get us to this point was the precision and relentless commitment of the people here. They engineered getting everything out of the building from the old lines and building the new plant. Quite frankly, there is nothing else like it in the world."