First Solar, a manufacturer of U.S.-made solar panels, posted $548 million in Q1 2023 revenue, about 26% lower than the market consensus of $743 million for its first quarter.
During Q1 2023, First Solar executed 9.9 GW of contracts and recognized 1.9 GW of volume sold, resulting in a total backlog of 69.4 GW, with an aggregate value sold of $20.4 billion, which implies approximately $0.293 per watt, an increase of approximately half a penny per watt from Q4 2022.
During the quarter, First Solar produced 2.36 GW of Series 6 panels, whose average watts per module was 467 W.
Production of Series 7 modules began in January 2023 with 170 MW of modules produced. The company said it recently demonstrated high-volume manufacturing production capable of up to 10,000 modules per day at its third Ohio facility, which houses Series 7 module production. The demo rate is 60% of nameplate throughput capacity, with panels achieving top bin production at 535 W.
Shipments of Series 7 modules, which used all-U.S. glass and steel components, are on track to begin as early as June 2023, Widmer said in prepared remarks. Outside of the U.S., First Solar is also expected to begin production in Chennai, India at a 3.54 GW nameplate facility in the second half of 2023 as well.
The company’s Cadmium-telluride (CadTel) technology certified a new record in Q1 2023 with a conversion efficiency of 22.3%.
First Solar’s common stock traded at $176.80 per share this morning, down about 11.5% after the company missed market estimates for Q1 sales. The company has a $19.5 billion market capitalization and has long-term total bookings opportunities of 113 GW for modules.
First Solar’s guidance is unchanged from prior quarters, with an expectation of generating $3.4 billion to $3.6 billion in revenue this year, a $1 billion increase over the $2.6 billion of annual sales for 2022. The company’s production guidance of $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion gross margin also factors in a $110 million to $130 million boost from the Series 7 module ramp up activity and some benefits from the Section 45X tax credit of the Inflation Reduction Act.
Financial guidance includes a huge contribution of $660 million to $710 million from Section 45X tax benefits factored into the company’s operating income expectation of $745 million to $870 million.
Section 45X, the advanced manufacturing production tax credit, is a per-unit tax credit for each clean energy component domestically produced and sold by a manufacturer and is claimed on federal corporate income taxes. The credit varies by eligible component and is multiplied by the number of units produced by the company sold that year. In First Solar’s case, its U.S.-made solar modules can receive a credit of $0.07 per watt.
“We anticipate our earnings profile will be higher in 2H 2023 due to contractual delivery schedules, timing of first sales of our Series 7 products and the timing of recognition of Section 45X benefits, driven by both the timing of volumes sold as well as the inventory lag where our product sold in the early part of 2023 may have been manufactured in 2022,” Widmer said.
“From a Section 45X perspective, based on the aforementioned factors, we expect to recognize approximately 25% of our full year guidance in the first half of the year and approximately 75% in the second half,” he added.
During the earnings call, Widmer said the company continues to await guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department related to the domestic content bonus provision of the Inflation Reduction Act.
At the end of Q1 2023, First Solar had a cash balance of $922 million.
In Alabama, First Solar’s fourth U.S. factory received environmental permits, with the foundation of early factory construction underway. Tooling equipment has been ordered and the facility remains on schedule for completion by the end of 2024, with commercial operations ramping through 2025, Widmer said in prepared remarks.
When Alabama becomes fully operational, facility expansions in Ohio and Alabama are expected to increase First Solar’s annual nameplate capacity in the U.S. to over 10 GW.
First Solar kicked off Q2 2023 by separately announcing a 2 GW, two-year order from utility solar developer Leeward Renewable Energy, bringing the developer’s total orders to date of First Solar modules to 6 GW for projects to be developed through 2028.
Deliveries for the modules will take place in 2026 and 2027 for the Dallas, Texas-based developer.
Leeward, a portfolio company of OMERS Infrastructure, a Canadian investment firm, is a renewable energy development company that owns and operates 25 projects across nine U.S. states with about 2.7 GW of generating capacity.
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