Two Arizona-based companies are taking the steps to secure the No. 1 global positions in their respective fields when it comes to providing critical components for devices that produce renewable energy.
First Solar with headquarters in Tempe is becoming the leading photovoltaic (PV) technology manufacturer that serves the solar industry while TPI Composites of Scottsdale is the largest U.S.-based independent manufacturer of composite rotor blades used on turbines that create wind energy.
With production facilities in the United States, Malaysia and Vietnam, First Solar has sold more than 17 gigawatts of solar modules used to provide energy worldwide. According to the First Solar Investor Overview issued in December, this year’s expected production volume of its Series 4 and 6 PV modules is expected to be 5.2 to 5.5 gigawatts.
The launch of the Series 6 thin film modules brings a great deal of anticipation for the company, as well as the solar industry. The modules recently met the new CSA/American Nation Standards Institute C450 standard after extended environmental tests, including temperature cycling, damp heat exposure, mechanical load testing, UV exposure and potential induced degradation testing. The evaluations replicate field failure experiences, and follow earlier certifications by the International Electrotechnical Commission and Underwriters Laboratories.
The timing for earning these industry credentials is right as First Solar launches new manufacturing sites to meet its goal of making 6.6 gigawatts of the Series 6 modules by the end of 2020 at its locations in the United States, Vietnam and Malaysia. The year 2019 is expected to be the last year of production for the Series 4.
The two newest manufacturing facilities are in Vietnam. Construction of a second 1.2-gigawatt factory brought First Solar’s total investment capital in the country to $830 million.
Later this year, a new manufacturing facility is expected to come on line near First Solar’s flagship plant in Perrysburg, Ohio. Like those in Vietnam, the factory will have an expected annualized capacity of 1.2 gigawatts. “Strong demand in the U.S. for advanced solar technology, along with recent changes in U.S. corporate tax policies, have encouraged our decision to grow First Solar’s U.S. production operations,” says Mike Koralewski, the company’s senior vice president of global manufacturing.
For TPI, the promise for its future lies in the growth of wind capacity. According to research firm BloombergNEF’s New Energy Outlook 2017, the cumulative global installed wind capacity at the end of 2017 was 538 gigawatts. By the end of 2027, that total is expected to reach 1,002 gigawatts.
The company’s factories in the United States, China, Mexico and Turkey produce wind blades with lengths exceeding 75 yards for major turbine manufacturers in the United States, Europe and Asia. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a 1.5-megawatt wind turbine can generate more than 3 million kilowatt hours of wind energy annually, which can provide electricity for 275 to 300 U.S. households.
TPI now serves the top six original equipment manufacturers of global wind turbines outside the China market. One of the latest examples is the company’s signing a multiyear supply agreement with ENERCON GmbH to provide blades for its new EP3 platform turbines for wind markets including Europe and Turkey. The blades are produced at one of TPI’s facilities in Izmir, Turkey.
The roster of wind turbine manufacturers to be supplied by TPI in the future continues to grow. To serve India and global wind markets for multiple customers, the company in early 2020 plans to open a state-of-the-art manufacturing hub as part of a multiyear supply agreement with Vestas Wind Systems A/S. TPI currently produces blades for Vestas in China, Turkey and Mexico.