First Solar to Focus on Efficiency, Rather Than Expansion

After lowering guidance for the year and letting it’s CEO go because of industry pricing pressure, First Solar (Nasdaq:FSLR) announced it would accelerate efforts to raise module and manufacturing efficiency, rather than continue to add new manufacturing plants. 

FSLR says it is postponing the planned Vietnam factory until global supply and demand dynamics support additional capacity.

Instead, it will expand its factory in Mesa, Arizona to supply its 2.7 gigawatt (GW) pipeline in North America, which includes the Agua Caliente, Desert Sunlight, Antelope Valley Solar Ranch and Topaz projects.

In July, FSLR announced a new efficiency record for thin-film modules in the lab and is now phasing in those advances into production. It produced a world-record 17.3% efficient cadmium telluride solar cell, resulting in average module conversion efficiency of 12.4%. 

The company is the solar industry’s lowest cost producer at $0.73 per watt, which will decline further with the planned 30% efficiency boost.

First Solar also expects that continuous improvement programs in its production process, coupled with the efficiency gains, will increase its average manufacturing throughput to 70 MW annually per production line by the end of 2012, up from 63.5 MW per line in Q3 2011.

First Solar to Manage Alpine Solar project

First Solar announced today that it signed an agreement with NRG Energy, Inc. (NYSE:NRG) to provide engineering, construction, operation and maintenance services for NRG’s 66 MW Alpine Solar project in Lancaster, California. The project will use First Solar’s advanced thin film modules.

Construction begins this year and should be finished in Q3 2012, creating an estimated 250 solar jobs.  

"Less than two years ago, NRG and First Solar began our productive collaboration for our first solar plant at Blythe, which at 21 megawatts was the largest solar plant in California at the time. Alpine is three times that size, so we’ve really come a long way together in a short amount of time," says Tom Doyle, president of NRG’s Solar and West Region.

NRG has become one of the largest solar developers in the country, with over 2000 MW under development or construction in the southwest. They’re also leading in developing a privately funded electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

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