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Home > Worldwide PV Report > Business & Company

10 Questions about First Solar

First Solar, one of the world‘s leading manufacturers of photovoltaic modules, is providing sustainable energy solutions for today‘s energy needs. Recently, it was ranked number 1 in IMS Research‘s ‘rankings for the top ten suppliers‘ in the global solar industry. InterPV had an opportunity to learn more about First Solar‘s achievements and plans for further development.

By Sarah Jeong (pved1@infothe.com) 


1. Brief Introduction

First Solar is the largest manufacturer of thin-film solar modules. By enabling clean, renewable electricity at lower costs and on a utility scale, First Solar is providing a sustainable alternative to conventional energy sources. This goal has driven First Solar to become one of the fastest growing manufacturers of solar modules in the world.


2. Production Capacity

In 2009, First Solar manufactured and shipped more than 1 GW of its Photovoltaic (PV) solar modules, becoming the first PV company to attain this production volume in a single year. One gigawatt of solar modules produces enough electricity to serve the needs of approximately 145,000 average American homes and saves roughly 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually (since its foundation in 1999, the company has produced and sold 2 GW of solar modules).


3. Any Changes or Current Conditions in Production Equipment in 2009

In 2009, First Solar invested in two additional production plants in Malaysia, consisting of four manufacturing lines each. This expansion is expected to increase First Solar‘s annual capacity by 424 MW. Additionally, in the summer of 2009. First Solar announced plans to build its fourth production plant in France. With the announced expansion in Malaysia and the two-line factory in France, First Solar expects to add 10 production lines during 2010 and 2011, increasing capacity by more than 48% from current levels and bringing First Solar‘s annual or announced production capacity to approximately 1.8 GW in 2012, based on current line run rates.


4. Sales Volume in 2009/Domestic Sales vs. Export/Rate of Growth in 2009 Compared to the Previous Year

Net income for fiscal 2009 was US$640.1 million compared with net income of US$348.3 million for fiscal 2008. Revenues for the fiscal year 2009 were US$2,066.2 million, up from US$1,246.3 million in fiscal year 2008. 

We sell more than 90% of our modules in the EU and the remainder in the U.S. and other regions.


5. Notable Features for the Product Development and Technology in 2009

We increased the conversion efficiency of our modules to 11.1% in Q4 2009 from 10.8% in Q4 2008.


6. Product Launch Plan for 2010

First Solar is constantly driving our product roadmap to deliver greater performance and lower overall system costs of solar electricity. We do not discuss aspects of our unreleased product roadmap outside of our close customer and channel partner relationships.


7. Technology Development for 2010

We expect to further increase the conversion efficiency of our modules in 2010 in line with our roadmap to grid parity.


8. Sales and Marketing Strategy for 2010

Our goal remains to reach sustainable market economics, where we can compete with and be positioned versus fossil fuel and the electricity market. Building scale and driving costs down will help make solar affordable. Working with utilities and regulators on feed-in tariff structures and policies, we‘ll continue to drive the business model closer to conventional types of markets while the economics improve over time and the subsidy and market economics decline. So our focus is to target sustainable markets and grow in transition areas for the future.


9. International Marketing Strategy for 2010

We continue to develop business opportunities in China, Australia and other overseas transition markets to compensate for slowing demand in Germany.


10. Strength Compared to Your Competitors

First Solar manufactures thin-film solar modules because of its superior energy output under field conditions, its low-cost and high-volume production benefits, and its superior environmental characteristics.

First, First Solars solar modules have less temperature-related losses than crystalline silicon due to a lower temperature coefficient. Additionally, they provide superior energy output in low, indirect and diffuse light conditions, for example producing more electricity on cloudy days.

Secondly, First Solars manufacturing system allows the production of solar modules in less than 2.5 hours and with only 1-2% of the semiconductor material needed to produce traditional crystalline silicon solar modules, eliminating a major cost component. At US$0.84/watt, First Solar is the clear cost leader in its industry and is aiming for grid parity by 2012-2014, depending on the market. In so doing, First Solar is delivering an economically viable alternative to traditional fossil fuels and nuclear power.

Thirdly, First Solars solar modules have the smallest carbon footprint of any PV technology and the fastest energy payback time. In less than a year, systems with First Solar modules produce more electricity than was required to create the system.

By combining superior environmental performance with low-cost manufacturing, First Solar is able to provide truly sustainable energy solutions, contributing to sustainable energy production and energy security.


Sarah Jeong is Editor of InterPV. Send your comments to pved1@infothe.com.



For more information, please send your e-mails to pved@infothe.com.

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