First Solar Inc. said March 17 Mesa, Ariz., will become the site of its second U.S. solar module plant.

The company expects to invest $300 million in the plant and employ approximately 600 people when construction is completed.

The plant will utilize a continuous manufacturing process that converts sheets of glass into a complete solar module in less than 2.5 hours, the company said.

Construction will begin in the second quarter of 2011 and is expected to last a year.

The new facility will include four manufacturing lines with a capacity to produce more than 250 megawatts of advanced thin-film photovoltaic modules per year. The facility will be located on a former 135-acre General Motors Corp. vehicle testing facility and is designed to accommodate future expansion.

The new plant increases First Solar's total U.S. production capacity to more than 500 megawatts per year. The company's other U.S. manufacturing facility is located in Perrysburg, Ohio, near Toledo.

The plant will be located approximately 30 minutes from First Solar's corporate headquarters in Tempe, Ariz.

First Solar President Bruce Sohn attributed state and federal policies as key contributors to the company's ability to build the facility.

"Programs such as Department of Energy loan guarantees and the solar investment tax credit are crucial to helping the renewable energy industry quickly reach the scale needed to compete with fossil fuels," Sohn said in a statement. "Over the long-term, programs like these facilitate the market growth and investment that will support the future expansion of this factory."

Arizona Republican Senator John McCain praised the move as an "important step toward greater energy security" in the United States.

See Also:

First Solar to Build New U.S. Plant

On the Rise: First Solar Ramps Up for Large-Scale Projects

First Solar Plans for Bright Future