‘Vital hedge’ | First Solar seals gigascale thin-film module deal with Silicon Ranch in US
US PV panel maker First Solar will supply independent power producer Silicon Ranch with 4GW of latest generation thin film cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar modules from 2023-2025 for use in its US solar projects.
Financial terms were not made public for the master agreement, one of First Solar’s largest. Nashville-based Silicon Ranch began contracting PV modules from First Solar in 2015 and has installed more than 1GW in 30 utility-scale projects in US southern states.
“Long-term module supply agreements with a trusted partner provide a vital hedge against the pricing and supply uncertainties that have impacted the solar industry over the past few years,” said Georges Antoun, chief commercial officer, First Solar.
First Solar’s advanced modules were designed and developed at its R&D centres in California and Ohio.
Under the agreement, end-of-life modules from Silicon Ranch projects can be processed by First Solar’s high value recycling program, which recovers approximately 90% of CdTe material which can be used to manufacture new modules, as well as other materials including aluminium, glass, and laminates.
The recycled glass can be converted into useful glass products for beneficial use, while laminates can be processed into rubber products including shoe soles and bicycle handles.
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First Solar currently operates commercial recycling facilities in the US, Germany, Malaysia, and Vietnam.
First Solar is investing $680m to build its third US manufacturing plant in Lake Township, in northwest Ohio. When fully operational next year, the complex will likely become the largest fully vertically integrated solar manufacturing centre outside of China with 6GW/yr capacity, according to the company.
Since taking office in January last year, President Joe Biden has with some success obtained funding from Congress necessary to help the private sector start rebuilding domestic manufacturing capability for clean energy equipment.
Solar is a prime focus for his administration as the US relies on Chinese manufacturers for the great majority of modules and many of the key components in solar panels, including polysilicon. First Solar is the largest US player, but Cd-Te modules are a small percentage of the market here.
Last September, DoE issued a study that forecast PV could provide 37-42% of national electricity demand by 2035 versus 3% in 2020. US electric power consumption was 3,800TWh in 2020, according to the latest calendar year data.