First Solar module backlog passes 80GW, Q3 production over 3.2GW

First Solar secured a further 6.8GW of net bookings in Q3. Credit: First Solar

US cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin-film module manufacturer First Solar has reached a module backlog of 81.8GW, which it expects to extend into 2030 as of the third quarter of 2023.

The company has secured a further 6.8GW of net bookings since the last earnings call, bringing the total for the year to 27.8GW.

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In the third quarter of this year, First Solar’s module production also reached a record of 3.2GW, a 14% increase from the previous quarter, and increased its production capacity for the seventh quarter in a row. Net sales decreased by US$10 million from the previous quarter to US$801 million due to a reduction in the volume of modules sold.

The company produced 2.5GW of its Series 6 modules and 721MW of the thin-film CdTe Series 7 modules. In the first three quarters of this year, First Solar produced a total of 1.3GW of Series 7 modules.

Graph showing First Solar module production by year and quarter. Credit: PV Tech

First Solar CEO Mark Widmar said its manufacturing plant in Ohio had continued to increase production capacity as it could produce up to 15,000 modules per day, approximately 97% of the manufacturing plant’s nameplate throughput. The plant produced 565MW in the third quarter of this year, while total year-to-date production of the Series 7 modules in the US surpassed 1GW.

Widmar added that First Solar’s manufacturing plant in India started production in the third quarter of this year with a manufacturing production capacity of about 12,000 modules per day, approximately 77% of its nameplate throughput. The manufacturing plant produced a total of 154MW in the quarter, and will deliver the first batch of the products by the end of 2023.

“We believe the future belongs to thin-film, and we described our long-term intent to be positioned to serve all addressable markets and commercialise the next generation of PV technology, balancing and optimising across efficiency, energy and cost in an environmentally and socially responsible way,” said Widmar.

Guidance for 2023 remains unchanged, with a module sales target of between 11.8-12.3GW and net sales target of US$3.4-3.6 billion.

Breaking ground on new projects

In this quarter, First Solar also broke ground on a new 3.5GW fully integrated manufacturing plant in Iberia Parish, Louisiana. Originally announced in July – with the location then confirmed in August – the factory is First Solar’s fifth in the US and represents US$1.1 billion in investment.

Widmar said the new plant will commence operation in 2025, while the first shipments of First Solar’s Series 7 modules are expected to leave the new plant in the first half of 2026, at which point the company will have reached 14GW nameplate manufacturing capacity in the US.

In November 2022, First Solar also selected Alabama for a 3.5GWdc module manufacturing factory. Widmar said this new manufacturing plant will commence operation in the second half of 2024.

On 7 September 2023, First Solar hosted its analyst day, updating its long-term business strategy, technology, and financial outlook. The company announced a new research and development (R&D) innovation centre and the first perovskite development line with a combined investment of US$450 million.

Widmar said both projects were on track.

“The perovskite development line and R&D centre are expected to commence operation in the first half of 2024, reflecting our determination to lead the industry in developing the next generation of PV technologies, optimising across efficiency, energy, and cost,” he said.

First Solar also reached an agreement in September with US-based renewable energy developer Longroad Energy to sell an additional 2GW of advanced thin film solar modules. Other agreements included the deal with US solar equipment manufacturer OMCO Solar, as OMCO Solar opened its sixth manufacturing facility in the US, and will begin work on providing backrails for First Solar’s new Series 7 modules.

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