Ahead of its earnings report coming down the pike next week, First Solar ( FSLR) announced today that it was entering a venture to create what's being called the largest solar panel-plant in France.

According to the company's press release, First Solar will build and operate the plant, which requires an expected 90 million euro investment. For the first ten years, output from the plant will go to EDF Energies Nouvelles, a Paris-based renewable energy operation which will also provide half of the financing and start-up costs for the project.

Though a site has yet to be announced, the annual capacity of the plant is expected to surpass an initial 100 megawatt-peak. It's planned to go into full production during the latter half of 2011 with more than 300 employees.

Shares of First Solar were gaining along with the rest of the solars on Thursday, up 4.1% in the late afternoon. Sunpower ( SPWRA), Suntech Power ( STP) and Canadian Solar ( CSIQ) changed hands in positive territory, up 3.8% 7.5% and 3.4% by late afternoon.

SunPower will jump-start the solar earnings season when it releases its quarterly numbers after the market close today.
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