“The Ohio plant has been reborn as an almost fully automated operation, daily churning out hundreds of solar panels for a fraction of what it costs rivals to make them. The secret: supersize panels made with cadmium telluride, an energy-absorbing metal compound that First Solar engineers figured out how to spray on glass sheets in a thin film. First Solar invested more than $1 billion in researching and developing the cad-tel spray over the course of two decades. Its success upended the business of solar panel production even before the Trump administration announced tariffs on overseas solar hardware on Jan. 22.
Even before Trump’s tariffs, the U.S. panel maker underpriced Chinese rivals with a spray-on, energy-absorbing metal.