It’s always gratifying when independent online news sites scoop the Big Boys of the MSM.
It’s especially pleasing when it’s your site that did the scooping. So, while we are proud of our story early yesterday on First Solar’s plan to build the world’s largest solar power plant in China, today we want to do what independent news services should be able to do best — provide our readers with more in-depth reporting than is available elsewhere.
We’ve put together a complete package of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between First Solar and China, including the detailed information First Solar filed with the SEC (click on the report cover below to open the pdf file).
The planned power plant is important, but not primarily for its size. Yes, the hope is for a solar PV plant with a 2 GW capacity. But, as you’ll see in the MOU, the project is broken up into more or less self contained phases that could result in a number much smaller than 2 GW.
As we wrote yesterday, the fact that the plant will use photovoltaic panels (PV) rather than concentrating solar power (CSP), suggests that PV is not simply going to go away just because CSP is the hot story right now.
Equally important: the PVs manufactured by First Solar use thin-film technology, instead of the traditional silicon-based variety. Thin-film has been popular for industrial use, but last year First Solar began selling for the home-market. First Solar was already expanding its Perrysburg, OH, manufacturing plant in anticipation of a growing market for thin-film.
The deal with China, however, is unlikely to result in many more manufacturing jobs in the US. First Solar has been producing panels in Germany for the European market for some time. In 2007, the company began leasing land in Kulim, Malaysia, for factories to supply Asian markets. Perhaps the most significant news about job creation is within the MOU itself.
“First Solar intends to actively participate in the development of the photovoltaic industry in China. First Solar intends to facilitate expansion of the supply chains in China for thin film photovoltaic module production and for the recycling of photovoltaic modules after use. During the implementation of the Phases covered by the time period from 2009 through 2014, First Solar intends to actively review the possibility of module and supplier manufacturing sites in Ordos . . .”
Still, it’s good to remember that First Solar continues to expand its production facilities here, and will continue to do so as long as the American market for renewable energy continues to expand — and that means government policies that give an incentive to do so. As reported here and elsewhere recently, China is investing far more than we are in solar power. China is using a feed-in-tariff to help fund the move to clean, renewable power. First Solar is responding by creating manufacturing jobs in Asia.
Yet Republican and conservative Democratic politicians and pundits continue to call a climate bill with incentives for domestic solar manufacturing, a “job killer.” All the evidence indicates that they have it backwards: not passing a bill that encourages growth of renewable energy industries sends a clear message to corporations like First Solar: they had better start hiring more supervisors fluent in Mandarin.
English? Not so much.