Talking to investors in its Q4 2017 Earnings Call on February 22, First Solar CEO Mark Widmar floated the possibility of expanding the company’s US manufacturing capacity as a direct result of Donald Trump’s corporate tax reforms.
First Solar published its Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2017 financial results late last week, and in the ensuing Earnings Call with investors and analysts, company CEO Mark Widmar fielded a question about “additional Series 6 capacity” — referring to extra manufacturing capacity for First Solar’s forthcoming Series 6 module — and whether that would result in expansion of existing facilities in Vietnam, or the possibility of “yet another capacity expansion?”
First Solar’s Series 6 thin-film solar PV module was unveiled back in December of 2017 at an announcement at its Ohio production line. According to the information provided at the time, the new Series 6 line of solar modules is expected to reach the commercial market with a power rating of between 420-445 watts and a solar conversion efficiency of more than 17%. First Solar believes that its new module will produce more watts per lift than comparable crystalline silicon solar panels, and boast that it can “be installed on virtually any ground-based PV mounting system.”
In response to the question of facility or capacity expansion, Widmark, while ensuring that all the necessary caveats were in place, explained that, “…as we look at the tax reform and what’s happening now with the US corporate tax rate, when you look at immediate expensing, there’s optionality potentially or there’s scenarios I guess maybe is a better way to say that we would look to in the US to add additional manufacturing as part of our overall scenario analysis across the global production platform.”
“Looking at the US has a different lens than it would have otherwise before tax reform and there is some capability that potentially says that we could get – if we made a decision to produce in the U.S. could we get some additional capacity between now and, say, the 2020 or beginning of 2020 timeframe? Could we get a little bit more capacity? Potentially. It depends on how things play out.”
Widmark is referring to the passing of the December tax plan by Congressional Republicans which, among other things, slashed the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, a move which Donald Trump has been heralding ever since as an opportunity for companies to re-invest in American jobs and manufacturing.
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