First Solar ups production capacity with new solar plant in Vietnam

First Solar ups production capacity with new Vietnam solar plantFirst Solar, Inc. (Nasdaq: FSLR) officially broke ground on its new Vietnam photovoltaic production facility earlier this week. When complete, the new facility will produce more than 250 megawatts of thin-film photovoltaics annually. The Vietnam facility will help First Solar meet its goal of expanding production capacity from 1.4 gigawatts at the end of 2011 to 2.9 GWs at the end of 2012.

The manufacturing plant being built at Dong Nam Industrial Park near Ho Chi Minh City is slated for completion by the second half of 2012, according to First Solar. During the construction phase, the $300 million facility will employ up to 2,000 people and after completion will employ 600.

“The Vietnam manufacturing plant will be part of First Solar's global manufacturing network that includes other factories in the United States, Germany and Malaysia and serves customers world-wide,” said First Solar spokesperson Alan Bernheimer.

The Vietnam manufacturing plant is part of First Solar’s attempt build up its capacity by the end of 2012.

“Total production capacity worldwide at the end of 2012 is expected to be 2.9 GW [using today's run rates], which is nearly double our current capacity,” Bernheimer said. The company’s capacity at the end of 2011 is projected to be 2.3 GWs.

The expansion in production capacity includes increases at its facilities in Malaysia, Germany and another 250 megawatt production facility in Arizona slated for completion in 2012. The company has not announced any expansion in production capacity beyond 2012, according to Bernheimer. However, both the Vietnam and the Arizona facilities have room for expansion in the future.

The Vietnamese facility also will recycle First Solar’s panels.

“A key feature of First Solar’s commitment to cradle-to-cradle life cycle management, the process currently recovers up to 90 percent of a module’s semiconductor materials and glass, by weight, for use in new solar modules and glass products,” the company said in a press release.

The new facilities will help First Solar remain among the largest manufactures of photovoltaics in the world. Although, other top manufacturers, like SunPower, are boosting their production capacity as well.

SunPower in December 2010 announced that it would increase worldwide production of its modules to just shy of 2 gigawatts by 2013.