Making high-quality American solar panels is one part of First Solar’s US value chain. Transporting them around the country, where they are installed in solar power plants, is another and requires a carefully choreographed exercise that plays out each day. It takes the efforts of hundreds of people, including woodworkers, warehouse and logistics professionals, railroad workers, truckers, and many others, to literally deliver America’s energy transition.
"We’re an Amish family-owned business making boxes and pallets to encase and transport finished First Solar panels. Twenty percent of our business is supplying pallets to First Solar.
Pallets move the world, and we enjoy making a product for the solar industry to help move their products at an affordable price with a product that can be turned back into sawdust and used by cattle farmers in their yards. Because we don't treat it with chemicals, it can all be mulched and turned into animal bedding."
Joshua Graber | Operations Manager | Graber Box and Pallet, Grabill, Indiana
"I've worked in almost every position in this mill over the last 11 years. Now I buy all the lumber. Most of it comes in by rail. This morning we bought four rail cars of wood, and we’re bringing three rail cars to the shop today, and four truckloads are going out.
Most of the lumber comes from Belk, Alabama, and Newton, Mississippi. A lot of the smaller 2x4 and 1x4 for the top of the pallets come from Maine. As a buyer, I don't always go by the best price. We will pay more to buy the high quality that First Solar wants."
Joe Schmucker | Sales and Purchasing
Graber Box and Pallet, Grabill, Indiana
"Growing up, I was always into trucks, and now I really enjoy challenging fabrication, so when we had to design a new rail system for them to haul glass, that was pretty interesting. Today I'm changing a feed air line from the air compressor to the air dryer on a diesel truck."
Skylar Knitz | Diesel Mechanic | Nagle Companies, Walbridge, Ohio
As an East Coast operations hub, workers at SC Ports' Inland Port in Greer, South Carolina, help First Solar move solar panels via train and truck to their final destinations.
"I move freight at an inland port, and because I'm a 12-hour guy, I get to operate the newer crane. We're about 65 feet up.
I love the view from up here, in the morning you get to see the sun rise and when the sun goes down, the mountains are in the background.
It's just a good place to work."
Derek Gaston | SC Ports' Crane Operator | Inland Port, Greer, South Carolina
"We unload about 300 to 400 containers a day and re-load the trains with about the same, so that's about two miles of train going out of Charleston everyday."
Tony Dominick | SC Ports' Operations Team Leader | Inland Port Greer