April 26, 2018 / 9:44 PM / 5 months ago

First Solar to build new U.S. panel factory in win for Trump

April 26 (Reuters) - First Solar Inc on Thursday announced it will expand its domestic manufacturing, the second such announcement by a U.S. solar firm this month that has been an apparent knock-on effect from Trump policies on trade and taxes.

First Solar Inc will spend $400 million to build a new solar panel factory in Ohio, creating 500 jobs, the company said in a statement. The factory will be located near an existing facility the company has in Perrysburg.

Strong domestic demand for solar energy and changes in U.S. tax policies underpinned the decision, said First Solar's senior vice president of global manufacturing, Mike Koralewski.

Last week, First Solar rival SunPower Corp said it would buy a U.S. domestic panel maker, as it sought to dodge the impact of 30 percent tariffs imposed on imported solar panels by the administration of President Donald Trump..

First Solar benefits from having a technology that is not subject to tariffs. Its panels are made from cadmium telluride, while the tariffs apply only to traditional silicon solar products.

As a result, solar project developers have increasingly sought out First Solar's tariff-free panels, and in February the company said it would restart some production at its Ohio factory that was stopped late last year and hire new employees to run those lines.

The new factory will produce First Solar's next-generation Series 6 solar panel technology.

In a statement provided by First Solar, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the company's domestic expansion was "exactly the result we had hoped for."

Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar is one of the world's largest solar energy companies. Most of its manufacturing is done in Malaysia.

The Ohio expansion will triple the company's domestic capacity. Construction will begin later this year and is contingent on state and local incentive packages, First Solar said. (Reporting by Nichola Groom, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)

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