US company First Solar has formally announced an investment of $684 million in Tamil Nadu for a solar photovoltaic (PV) thin film module manufacturing facility that will support 1,000 jobs, with 60% of them women.
The announcement came at the fourth annual meeting of the Indo-Pacific Business Forum (IPBF), a US initiative which was co-hosted for the first time in South Asia. Held virtually this time, the forum advances US vision for an open, interconnected, resilient, and secure Indo-Pacific region.
It is the premier annual US government-sponsored commercial diplomacy event for the region, which was attended by more than 2,300 business and government leaders, the state department said.
Indian companies and entities that participated included Bharti Airtel, the Confederation of Indian Industry, the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Tata Steel, the State Bank of India, Wipro and the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum.
The First Solar announcement formalised an investment that the company had teased months ago. It will create a new, vertically integrated solar module manufacturing facility for photovoltaic films, the state department said. The company had earlier stated it plans to go operational from 2023.
Mark Widmar, the company’s CEO, was among the handful of US business leaders Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met during his last visit to the United States in September, for his first in-person meeting with President Joe Biden and the first in-person summit of Quad leaders.
The US Development Finance Corporation (DFC) also announced it will provide $50 million in loan to Northern Arc Capital to expand its loan portfolio with a focus on loans for women-owned business enterprises in India. The loan is part of a co-financing with the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, which will also provide a $50 million loan, the state department said.
Other investments announced at the forum were US company Bentley Systems investing $1 billion in acquiring partnering with New Zealand-based Seequent, a global leader in 3D modelling software; Amazon spending $5.25 billion in creating a Cloud Region in New Zealand; DFC to partner with a Nepalese company to raise $75 million fund for small and medium businesses.
“As all nations strive to recover from the unprecedented disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the importance of economic and commercial cooperation and partnership is paramount,” the state department said. “As the world’s largest economy and most generous humanitarian assistance donor, the United States is leading the way in that recovery effort, both at home and abroad.”