IBERIA PARISH, La. (KLFY) – First Solar, the largest solar energy manufacturer in the Western Hemisphere, announced it has selected Acadiana Regional Airport as the site of its fifth American manufacturing facility.

The company said it will invest up to $1.1 billion in the facility, which will produce high-performance photovoltaic solar modules. Photovoltaic materials and devices convert sunlight into electrical energy. 

The company expects to create more than 700 new direct jobs with a total annual payroll of at least $40 million. It is believed to be the largest single capital investment in the area’s history.

The project is expected to be complete in the first half of 2026.

“First Solar’s selection of Iberia Parish for its newest solar panel production facility leaves no doubt that Louisiana is leading the global energy transition, and creating good-paying jobs as a result,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “This massive investment and the jobs it will create are a huge win for the people of Acadiana and the entire state. It is proof positive that Louisiana’s ‘all-of-the-above’ approach to energy is growing and diversifying our economy. Thank you to everyone who made this day a reality, and a special thank-you to First Solar for trusting Louisiana to be part of their mission to create a more sustainable future.”

The Acadiana facility will be built on an LED Certified Site, meaning it has gone through extensive due diligence and studies to be declared development-ready. It will produce First Solar’s Series 7 modules, which are expected to be manufactured with 100% U.S.-made components, according to First Solar Chief Executive Officer Mark Widmar.

“We are pleased to partner with Louisiana as we lean into our commitment to creating enduring value for America by expanding our solar manufacturing footprint and the domestic value chains that enable it,” said Widmar. “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. In bringing our unique, fully vertically integrated solar manufacturing model to Louisiana, we expect the plant to mirror the commitment to ‘Responsible Solar’ evident at every First Solar manufacturing facility, which are among the cleanest, safest, and most diverse in the industry. We are proud that our investment in American manufacturing will create stable, good-paying manufacturing jobs and economic and social value in the state.”   

First Solar will also use The University of Louisiana at Lafayette for a large portion of the workforce at the facility, where high-performance photovoltaic (PV) solar modules will be produced.

UL Lafayette also said the company will collaborate with university researchers in a range of areas, including technology and development; it will also provide internship opportunities for students and utilize university facilities for testing and training.

Much of the collaboration will be at the university’s Antoun Hall, which houses the Louisiana Solar Energy Lab. The university said The Department of Mechanical Engineering’s Dr. Terrence Chambers, the lab’s director, will help coordinate much of the collaboration with First Solar.

Dr. Joseph Savoie, UL Lafayette president, said that The Louisiana Solar Energy Lab “is an integral component of the University’s leadership in both traditional and sustainable energy, and indicative of our wide-ranging capabilities for research and operational testing.”

“First Solar’s choice to locate its newest manufacturing plant here underscores the university’s success in not only educating tomorrow’s engineers, but our significant, essential role – and value – as an economic engine for the region, state, nation – and beyond,” Savoie said.

Founded in 1999, First Solar is a leading American-based energy technology company and global provider of eco-efficient solar modules. The company is unique among the world’s 10 largest solar panel manufacturers as the only company with a U.S. headquarters and without a base of operations in China.

Iberia Parish President M. Larry Richard said the announcement by First Solar is “a complete game-changer.”

“We appreciate First Solar’s major investment and look forward to welcoming this international organization to the nation’s energy corridor,” Richard said.

To secure the project in Iberia Parish, the state of Louisiana offered First Solar an incentive package that includes grants for site development and infrastructure improvements totaling $30 million. All grants are contingent upon meeting investment, employment and payroll targets. The company is also expected to participate in the state’s Quality Jobs program.

Mike Tarantino, CEO of the Iberia Industrial Development Foundation, said they couldn’t be more proud First Solar is funding Iberia Parish for this project.

“This will be a 1.1 billion dollar investment in a current generation solar panel manufacturing facility,” Tarantino said. “First Solar is a major worldwide corporation, one of the major producers of solar panels in the world, and they’ve decided to locate and make that huge investment here in Iberia Parish. We couldn’t be more excited.””

Tarantino said the establishment will give people in Acadiana huge job-securing opportunities.

“Iberia Parish and Acadiana have been known as the nation’s energy core for years,” Tarantino said. “Along with oil and gas, this will be a great added component and a great opportunity for jobs and careers for people all over Acadiana.”

In addition to the state’s incentives offerings, Iberia Parish and Iberia Economic Development Authority are committing to fund site improvements such as water and wastewater infrastructure development.

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