First Solar believes that America’s energy transition must be powered by American innovation and remains firmly committed to maintaining the country’s global leadership in thin film photovoltaic solar panel technology. This is why it has invested over $1.5 billion in its uniquely American solar technology. And it continues to invest heavily in R&D through its own team of scientists and researchers and continued collaboration with American universities and research institutions. Its new, first-of-its-kind R&D innovation center in Perrysburg, Ohio, is expected to accelerate its ability to innovate and maintain American leadership in thin film solar panels.
First Solar continuously invests in its own R&D as it focuses on developing the next generation of advanced solar technologies.
"I'm here because I just finished up my PhD on solar cells, specifically doing depositions similar to what we are doing here. My PhD was on VTD (vapor transport deposition) for perovskites, and First Solar is famous for using VTD at a manufacturing scale.
My undergrad was focused on circuits, I went to MIT to learn how to design circuit elements. I wanted to work on something other than just another display, the next smart phone, I want to spend my fifty or sixty hours a week doing something that's worthwhile, and this application is worth it and the next smart phone is not."
Ella Wassweiler | Development Engineer | First Solar Research Technology Center, Santa Clara, California
"I'm really worried about climate change, so I want to put my education and technical skills to de-carbonizing energy and getting rid
Right now, we're working on perovskite solar cells, we want to be able to scale up the technology that works in a lab to move it to the manufacturing facility.”
Brandon Thomas | Associate Engineer | First Solar Research Technology Center, Santa Clara, California
With grants and funding from the US Department of Energy, First Solar, and other organizations, students at the University of Toledo are learning about PV semiconductors and experimenting with next-generation solar cells.
"We're trying to make the solar cell last longer and increase its efficiency. We try to do our testing in very commercially acceptable ways so that the technology transfer from development to production is easy."
Zulkifl Hussain | Graduate Research Assistant
Wright Center for Photovoltaics Innovation and Commercialization, Toledo, Ohio
The research continues beyond semiconductors. The R&D team at NSG Group is continuously working on next-generation glass and glass products to enhance the product’s sustainability and refine the material to suit solar panels better.
“The future sustainability of glass manufacturing is a critical development area for NSG and our customers. Globally we are working to reduce the amount of embodied carbon in all our products. One key area of investigation has been the evaluation of alternative fuels in the manufacturing process for glass and we were the first company in the world to fire a glass float line with hydrogen demonstrating its future potential for lower embodied carbon glass manufacture.
Our development activities here at Northwood cover work for our Architectural, Automotive and Solar Customers. Roughly a third of the people here are linked to the work we do for the solar industry. Our team works very closely with First Solar on current projects, but also on their future road map. We look at new material potential and try to transfer that onto a float line. We start on very small pieces of glass and scale these developments to glass for pilot scale tests and ultimately to apply at the Luckey float Plant.
Our technology development for the Automotive and Architectural businesses has synergies with our activities for the Solar sector. I love the work we do for all our business lines, but the solar work is particularly exciting as it invites very technical research for glass making, chemistry of the layers we deposit and the manufacturing process. In this area, we really must work together across companies and across functions if we're going to continue to drive even higher efficiency and outputs of the modules. Breaking down these barriers of communication is what is really leading to the success that we are seeing.”
Kevin Sanderson | Global Portfolio Manager On Line and Off Line Coatings | NSG Group Research & Development Facility, Northwood, Ohio
“I get to work on projects for the automotive and solar glass industries daily. Today, I’m sanding some glass samples to soften the sharp edges before we put them through the washer. We do a variety of different tests on these samples so it’s critical we prepare the samples properly to get accurate test results."
Brittney Rios | R&D Technician
NSG Group Research & Development Facility, Northwood, Ohio