First things first: First Solar was sold out through 2020 as of the Q3’18 earnings call, wih 11.3 GW of future volume booked. The company’s Series 6 solar module – and its estimated 20¢ per watt manufacturing costs – is driving these aggressive sales.
Yesterday, December 11, 2019, First Solar announced full-year 2019 guidance. The company forecasts net sales between $3.25 to $3.45 billion, with solar power systems sales being 55-60% of the revenue and the rest of the revenue being from module sales to third parties.
First Solar projects that gross margins will increase to the 20-21% range, inclusive of production ramp costs of $20 to $30 million and production start-up expenses of $90 to $100 million, associated with the deployment of Series 6 capacity in 2019. 2018 gross margins had been previously revised downward from 20.5 to 21.5%, into the 18.5-19.5% as scaling costs were greater than expected.
These numbers represent significant growth from its projected 2018 totals.
The current projection for 2018 are approximately 2.6 to 2.7 GW due to the revised expectation that the Ishikawa project in Japan will now be sold in 2019. For 2019, the currently projected 5.4 to 5.6 GW of solar module shipments are just over double the 2018 numbers.
The company’s forecasted net sales for 2019 are approximately 43% greater than the 2018 forecasted net sales.
First Solar is in the midst of a massive global scale up as it aims for greater than 7.6 GW of annual manufacturing capacity online by the end of 2020, another 27% in capacity growth over the already healthy 2019 projects – and a full 187% greater than their expected 2018 volumes.
First Solar modules have been part of many projects covered this year by pv magazine, including a beautiful First Solar + NexTracker + Tesla project built by NextEra in Pinal County, Arizona and a 500 MW project in Georgia that is currently the largest announced project in the southeastern USA.
Earlier this year the company announced a 1.2 GW factory that will employ 500 workers in Ohio. The new facility is expected to First Solar’s total capacity to 7.6 GW by the end of 2020.
The stock is trading down 1% in early trading this morning, after a big bump immediately upon the announcement yesterday just after 4 PM EST.