US manufacturer resuscitates US$1.2 billion solar module facility in Vietnam

By Quynh Nhu - Feb 03, 2018 | 10:05 AM GMT+7

TheLEADERDespite once announcing to sell the solar cell manufacturing project in Ho Chi Minh City, First Solar has suddenly returned to Vietnam.

US manufacturer resuscitates US$1.2 billion solar module facility in Vietnam
First Solar receives solar panel production equipment for the factory in Ho Chi Minh City

Following the recent announcement of recruiting nearly 1,000 engineers, managers and workers, US-based First Solar received the first batch of equipment for the production of the high-tech solar panel Series 6 module on January 30, 2018.

The new moves are in contrast to the company’s announcement to suspend its investment and withdraw its presence from Vietnam six years ago.

In early 2011, First Solar was licensed to invest in a solar cell manufacturing project with a total investment of US$1.2 billion in the South East Industrial Zone of Ho Chi Minh City.

Immediately after receiving the license, the US investor kicked off construction on the project. However, only a few months later it announced to stop investing due to the imbalance between the supply and demand of solar panels in the world.

First Solar had authorized Cushman & Wakefield to sell its facilities in Vietnam, including a total area of 113,000 square metres of factory and office space.

Some investors came to ask for buying out the facilities, including a Chinese solar cell manufacturer who agreed to purchase at the offering price. However, the deal was not reached due to the difference in technology between two companies.

Until the mid of last year, First Solar surprisingly announced to return to Vietnam and quickly promoted its commitment to Vietnam.

Its first activity is announcing an additional US$360 million investment in a second factory, raising the total investment in Vietnam to US$830 million. Then it announced its mass recruitment with the expected number of employees being about 1,000 people.

Most recently, the first batch of high-tech solar panel Series 6 manufacturing equipment was imported.

Mike Koralewski, Senior Vice President of Global Manufacturing at First Solar, shared that there were a number of reasons why the company had decided not to sell its project in Vietnam.

The first reason is that the demand for solar energy and the solar cell market will grow significantly in the future. Also, the business environment in Vietnam is very favorable; skills of local workers can meet the production needs of the company and the political and social environment is stable.

Besides, the supply chain is suitable, which is conducive to the long-term development of First Solar. Finally, the demand for high technology in the region is also increasing.

However, one of the most important reasons for the company not to sell its project is due to the high-tech solar panel Series 6 module that was successfully developed in 2016.

This technology is effective, time-saving, environmentally friendly and has high conversion efficiency while the price is reasonable.

With the introduction of the solar panel Series 6 module technology, the company has received a huge number of orders and therefore, it is understandable that this American business considered to come back to Vietnam.

Initially, the plant in Southeast Industrial Zone is dedicated to the production of thin film solar Series 4 module. According to Vu Minh Hung, Senior Manager, EHS & S at First Solar, the company initially planned to recruit 3,500 employees to operate. However, after the introduction of Series 6 technology, First Solar will need only nearly 1,000 people.

When both plants are in production, the total capacity of the factory will reach 2.4GW per year. The production of the two plants in the next two years has been ordered by customers all over the world.

According to the plan, the Series 6 production line will be completed in the third quarter of this year. In the last months of the year, the evaluation of the entire plant, chain, and personnel will begin. If everything follows its track, First Solar will immediately start producing.