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25 February 2009


CdTe PV maker First Solar passes $1 per Watt milestone

First Solar Inc of Tempe, AZ, USA, which makes thin-film photovoltaic modules based on cadmium telluride (CdTe), says that in fourth-quarter 2008 it cut its manufacturing cost to 98 cents per watt, breaking the $1 per Watt price barrier. “This achievement marks a milestone in the solar industry’s evolution toward providing truly sustainable energy solutions,” claims CEO Mike Ahearn.

First Solar began full commercial operation of its initial manufacturing line in late 2004. Annual production capacity has since grown 2500% to more than 500MW in 2008, and should double in 2009 to more than 1GW (the equivalent of an average-sized nuclear power plant). In addition, manufacturing costs have fallen by two-thirds, from over $3 per Watt to less than $1 per Watt. The firm says that it is confident that further significant cost reductions are possible based on the yet untapped potential of its technology and manufacturing process.

“Without forward-looking government programs supporting solar electricity [naming Germany in particular], we would not have been able to invest in the capacity expansion which gives us the scale to bring costs down,” Ahearn says. “First Solar’s ongoing focus on cost reduction enables continued growth even as subsidies decline,” he adds.

“To address climate change in a meaningful way, we need energy technologies that are affordable, scalable and have a low environmental impact on a life-cycle basis,” says Ken Zweibel, director of the Institute for the Analysis of Solar Energy at The George Washington University and former program leader for the Thin Film Partnership Program at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, CO, USA. “With this announcement, First Solar continues to demonstrate the ability of thin-film PV technology to provide an alternative to traditional fossil fuels and for solar power to provide a meaningful contribution in addressing climate change.”

*First Solar says that its revenue more than doubled from $504m in 2007 to $1,246.3m in 2008. Despite operating expenses rising from $114m to $240m, net income more than doubled from $158.4m to $348.3m. Cash reserves rose from $404m to $716m.

In particular, for fourth-quarter 2008 revenue was $433.7m, up 24% on $348.7m in Q3 and more than double $200.8m a year ago. Net income has risen from $62.9m a year ago and $99.3m in Q3/2008 to $132.8m.

See related items:

First Solar completes 10MW CdTe PV plant for Sempra

First Solar completes 2MW plant for Southern California Edison

First Solar more than doubles revenue and income year-on-year

First Solar breaks ground on Ohio CdTe PV expansion

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