First Solar breaks module production record with 3.6GW in Q1 2024

First Solar
First Solar’s nameplate capacity will be over 21GW in 2024. Image: First Solar.

US cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin-film module manufacturer First Solar has broken its module production record as it produced 3.6GW of modules in the first quarter of 2024.

In its financial result announcement for Q1 2024, the company announced that its module production volume was 3.6GW, up from 2,526MW in Q1 2023, representing a 42.5% year-on-year growth. Quarterly, the growth was only 0.8% as First Solar produced 3.57GW of modules in Q4 2023

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Of the total production volume, the company’s Series 6 modules accounted for 2.4GW, with the remaining production being the Series 7 modules. 

Aside from module production capacity, First Solar’s backlog as of Q1 2024 was 78.3GWdc, equalling the amount as of the end of 2023. Both the year-to-date volume sold and net bookings in Q1 2024 were 2.7GWdc, with the latter’s average selling price of US$0.0313 per watt. 

Mark Widmar, CEO of First Solar, said the company’s nameplate capacity will be over 21GW in 2024 and rise to more than 25GW in 2026. First Solar’s manufacturing capacity reached 16.6GW as of the end of 2023, up from 9.8GW in 2022. 

“All of this capacity is available to serve the US market with over half of our capacity physically located in the US,” he said. 

Widmar also mentioned the solar industry’s overcapacity. He said First Solar’s module assembly plants were operating near nameplate capacity in the first quarter of this year. In contrast, the average large Chinese solar manufacturing facility had a record-low capacity utilisation rate of 23% in February due to overcapacity, according to Widmar. 

“We’re focused on policy and trade drivers that can encounter anti-competitive and abusive market behaviours. There should be no doubt we invite competition and free trade. We continue to seek that the competition and trade are practised on a fair and level playing field. We believe this approach will help us drive growth, navigate industry volatility and deliver enduring shareholder value,” Widmar added. 

Financial performance

First Solar’s net sales in Q1 2024 were US$794 million, a decrease of US$365 million compared to Q4 2023. Alex Bradley, CFO of First Solar, said the decrease in net sales was driven by an expected historical seasonal reduction in the Q1 volume of modules sold.

Net income in Q1 2024 was US$236.6 million, down from US$349.2 in Q4 2023. Research and development (R&D) expenses dropped from US$43.9 million in Q4 2023 to US$42.7 million in Q1 2024 but were higher than the US$30.5 million spent in Q1 2023. 

Lastly, Widmar also provided updates on the companies’ expansion plan, as its manufacturing plant in Perrysburg, Ohio, along with its commercial shipments, are expected to begin before the end of Q2 2024. 

“Construction activity at the new facility in Alabama has been complete, and the first tools are now being installed in preparation for the expected start of commercial shipments in the second half of this year. Our new Louisiana facility is also on track with the start in commercial operations expected in late 2025,” he added.

8 October 2024
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