Solar panel maker First Solar has selected Acadiana Regional Airport in Iberia Parish, Louisiana, as the site of its next manufacturing facility, the company announced last week.
The $1.1 billion factory will be First Solar's fifth U.S. plant and is expected to be the largest capital investment in Louisiana history, according to the company. First Solar also operates three locations in Ohio and is currently building a facility in Alabama.
The new site is slated for completion in 2026 and is expected to create more than 700 jobs.
The company highlighted Louisiana's deep talent pool in the solar energy sector as a key factor in its decision to set up shop in the state.
"As we evaluated our options, Louisiana’s ability to deliver the talent we need stood out, thanks to its extensive workforce development initiatives and the presence of academic institutions such as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette which now features a world-class solar energy lab," First Solar CEO Mark Widmar said in a statement.
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette broke ground on its solar energy lab last year, establishing a hub for solar research, technology development, instruction, training, outreach and workforce development, according to the university. The school also operates one of the region's largest outdoor solar testing facilities, located adjacent to the lab.
First Solar plans to tap the lab for much of its workforce needs, according to the university. The two will collaborate on training and workforce development needs, as well as partner on R&D efforts.
"First Solar’s investment in the region and state emphasizes the importance of collaborations between top-tier research universities like UL Lafayette, industry, local partners like Acadiana Planning Commission, One Acadiana, Lafayette Economic Development Authority, and Iberia Parish leaders," Ramesh Kolluru, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's VP for research, innovation and economic development, said in a statement.
The manufacturer received $30 million in site development and infrastructure incentives from the state as part of the deal.
First Solar will be the sixth solar energy sector manufacturer to set up shop in the state, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, and add to the approximately 3,185 solar jobs in Louisiana.