In the spirit of progress and collaboration, First Solar has made a monumental stride in the solar manufacturing industry, solidifying South Louisiana’s place on the map of sustainable energy. With a $1.1 billion investment in Iberia Parish, First Solar, the largest solar panel manufacturer in America, is setting the stage for a greener, brighter future.
Read on to learn more about First Solar’s journey to South Louisiana, known locally as Acadiana, and the key players and their roles in making this monumental investment a reality.
A Solar Manufacturing Triumph
This isn’t just any solar project; it’s a visionary endeavor that highlights Acadiana’s potential as a hub for clean energy production. First Solar’s future manufacturing facility is set to be operational by the first half of 2026. The cutting-edge facility will produce high-performance photovoltaic (PV) solar modules, contributing to Louisiana’s ascendancy as a leader in the energy sector. While oil and gas is still a major driver in South Louisiana’s economy, this investment will open the floor for a more diverse production landscape powered by progress.
Setting Sites in South Louisiana
One Acadiana was the linchpin in recruiting First Solar to the region. Their role goes beyond recruitment; they played an instrumental part in certifying 170 acres through their Certified Business Site Program, providing the due diligence necessary for prospective tenants to understand the potential of the property and fast-track their development process.
Following the site selection, Acadiana companies, Lemoine and Fenstermaker, were tapped to support the building of the facility. This collaboration reflects the strong sense of community that our region is known for, where partners come together to help fuel the future of businesses that call it home.
Competitive Business Incentives
To further help secure the venture within Iberia Parish, Louisiana extended a compelling and comprehensive incentives package. The package consisted of benefits such as LED FastStart’s workforce solutions, as well as performance-based grants aimed at facilitating site development and enhancing infrastructure—with a total value of $30 million. Additionally, the company is anticipated to engage in the state’s Quality Jobs program which offers a percentage rebate on annual payroll expenses. It’s competitive incentives like these that make South Louisiana a prime hub for businesses looking for financially smart locations that offer the resources to grow and sustain.
Empowering the Workforce
South Louisiana Community College
Behind every successful business is a strong team of employees, and South Louisiana Community College (SLCC) is dedicated to addressing First Solar’s skilled workforce needs as the incubator of its talent pipeline.
As Steven Mathews, Vice President of Economic and Workforce Development at SLCC, articulates, “We are thrilled to collaborate with First Solar to cultivate a proficient workforce for this groundbreaking solar manufacturing facility.” SLCC’s New Iberia Campus is poised to intensify its curriculum offerings to meet the specialized needs of the First Solar facility, equipping individuals with skills in welding, manufacturing, electrical, machining, and more.
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette (UL Lafayette) is at the forefront of research and training, lighting the way for First Solar’s operations in the state. The university’s research grads will help power the manufacturing giant’s workforce, including internships. This collaboration will also provide First Solar with access to their state-of-the-art research facility, the Louisiana Solar Energy Lab—a 6-acre testing site consisting of 4,200 solar panels. The partnership will be an invaluable asset to both entities as they work together to shape the future of our energy landscape.
The Power of Partnerships
It truly takes a village to execute a project of this magnitude effectively, and the leaders of Acadiana rose to the challenge in a way that can only be described as remarkable. Other various partners that contributed to its fruition include the Iberia Industrial Development Foundation, Acadiana Planning Commission, Iberia Parish Government, Acadiana Regional Airport, and the Iberia Parish Airport Authority. Without their involvement, this investment, believed to be the largest single investment in the region, wouldn’t be possible.
Economic Growth and Promise
Once operational, First Solar’s new facility is set to create more than 700 direct manufacturing jobs with an average annual salary of $80,000. The ripple effect extends to an estimated 694 new indirect jobs, making it a total of approximately 1,400 new jobs in Acadiana.
This development is not only a win for the region but for the state of Louisiana as a whole. It serves as a reminder of the importance of investing in a pro-business climate that supports sustainable economic growth, and we’re excited to see the opportunities that unfold as the project materializes.
If you’re interested in learning more about what South Louisiana has to offer for your business, contact our economic development team to get started!