First Solar plans to double manufacturing capacity by 2026

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First Solar, U.S.-based manufacturer of cadmium telluride thin-film solar panels, now in its 25th year of operations, released its Q4, 2023 earnings. Revenues totaled $1.16 billion, coming in slightly below expectations of $1.32 billion. The company reported earnings per share of $3.13.

The company has a strong outlook for 2024, issuing guidance of revenues of $4.5 billion and 16 GW of solar module shipments. The company expects an average selling price (ASP) of $0.286 per watt.

Gross margins were 43% in the fourth quarter and 39% for the whole year 2023. This compares to 3% in 2022. The increase in gross margin was primarily due to the recognition of Section 45X tax credits from the Inflation Reduction Act.

In 2023 the company continued its momentum, securing 10 new customers and 28.3 GW of net bookings with a base ASP of over $0.30 per watt. The company’s total contracted backlog is now over 80 GW, with orders stretching to the end of the decade.

First Solar produced a record 12.1 GW of solar modules, growing 33% over 2022 totals. The company has cumulatively produced 60 GW of solar. It produced 9.7 GW of Series 6 modules and 2.4 GW of Series 7.

The company has plans to continue to expand its production capacity significantly. It announced a $1.1 billion investment in a new manufacturing facility in Louisiana, which is expected to add 3.5 GW of capacity. Year-end 2026, the company expects to have 14 GW of U.S. solar capacity and 11 GW internationally, reaching 25 GW of global solar module production.

First Solar also acquired Evolar, a perovskite specialist operating in Sweden, for $38 million. The acquisition is expected to accelerate the development of next generation PV technology, including high efficiency tandem devices.

“Over the past year, we expanded manufacturing capacity, mobilized at our latest announced facility in Louisiana, produced and shipped a record volume of modules, expanded our contracted backlog to historic levels, and increased R&D investment, and continued to evolve our technology and product road map,” said Mark Widmar, chief executive officer.

Vertical integration

First Solar recently commissioned an economic analysis of its vertically integrated solar value chain in the United States, something that makes it unique among major U.S. module providers.

The study found that its operations support nearly $2.8 billion in value added and almost $5.3 billion in total output, including indirect and induced economic effects. The study found that in 2023 First Solar supported an estimated 16,245 direct, indirect, and induced jobs across the country, representing $1.59 billion in annual labor income.

By 2026 it is projected to grow to a total of more than 30,000 jobs and almost $2.8 billion in labor income. Operating at that scale would support an estimated nearly $5 billion in value added and over $10 billion in output to the U.S. economy including direct, indirect, and induced economic effects.

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