First Solar back to full-capacity utilisation in Q4

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Share on email
Email

Despite lower Q3 2012 revenue of US$839 million, down from US$957 million in the last quarter, First Solar said that CdTe thin-film module production increased 33% from Q2 levels reaching 490MW.

A strong project pipeline meant that the company would see production capacity utilisation rates reach between 90%-95%, effectively full-capacity in Q4. First Solar had utilisation rates of 63% in Q2 and reached 83% in Q3.

However, the company reiterated that its Frankfurt Oder manufacturing facility in Germany would continue production until the end of this year when production would be permanently shut down.

Production costs and module efficiencies

The high utilisation rates resulted in lower production costs in Q3. First Solar reported a module production cost per watt of US$0.67, down $0.05 quarter-over-quarter.

Management noted in a conference call to discus quarterly results that, if it had been running lines at full capacity,  the cost per watt would have been US$0.64.

Based on its best production line operations, the company had reduced production costs to US$0.62/W, US$0.10 lower than the same period a year ago. The company said its consolidated manufacturing cost and its best line cost per watt were forecasted to be US$0.64 and US$0.61, respectively, US$0.01 lower than previous estimates for consolidated cost per watt and US$0.02 better than its previous estimate for the best line cost per watt.

Mark Widmar, Chief Financial Officer at First Solar said, “As of the end of October, our best line is currently producing an average module efficiency of 13.2%. When this module efficiency gets combined with our lowest cost manufacturing plant, the module cost per watt would be US$0.59.”

Widmar also noted that the company expected consolidated manufacturing cost per watt to go below US$0.60 in late 2013, while he expected consolidated module efficiencies of 12.8%, by the end of year.

On a year-over-year basis, module efficiencies have increased by 0.9%. Best line module efficiency reached 13.2%, according to the CFO.

R&D update

 

According to James Hughes, Chief Executive Officer, the company had been investing heavily in R&D programs to boost module efficiencies as well as reduce overall LCOE with a targeted US$100 – US$140 per megawatt hour.

Hughes noted, “We have already partially rolled our changes to our laser scribe process that resulted in improvement to our module active area loss. We expect to complete the rollout by mid-2013. Improvements in our semiconductor absorber material through modifications to our deposition technology are expected to go into full volume production beginning in mid-2013. We are also working on a module design change that will reduce active area losses and improve uniformity which is also expected to be rolled out in the second half of 2013.”

However, Hughes noted that potentially the most significant technology development that is expected to boost module efficiencies were changes to the back contact of the module. Hughes said that this was targeted to be rolled-out into volume production in the second-half of 2014, though he didn’t mention what impact this change would have on average module efficiencies.

“This is very encouraging in an extremely competitive industry where the lowest cost providers with the most comprehensive and customized solutions will ultimately be the winners,” added Hughes.

Capital expenditure

Despite the return to full-capacity utilisation, First Solar continued to curtail capital expenditures. The company noted CapEx was US$57 million in Q3, down from US$100 million in Q2. Emphasis continues to be on module efficiency gains to boost capacity.

PV project pipeline

First Solar said that its solar power systems revenue, which includes EPC revenue and modules used in the systems business, increased from 86% of sales in Q2 to 95% of sales in Q3.

The company noted that year-to-date, new contracted orders booked for its system EPC and third-party module sales in the US had reached 644MW (DC), with its global project pipeline standing at 3GW (AC).

This equated to nearly US$9 billion of future, although this was US$500 million lower than at the start of the year as the company had recognised US$2.3 billion of revenue this year. New bookings through to the end of Q3 had reached US$1.8 billion.

Hurricane Sandy 

 

Management noted that several PV projects on the east coast had been disrupted by Hurricane Sandy and that the company was still assessing the impact of the aftermath would have on project deadlines. Though actual damage was not the issue, supply chain issues were the problem, especially for some supplier’s that were impacted by the hurricane.

As a precautionary measure, First Solar revised its full-year revenue guidance to between US$3.5 billion – US$3.8 billion compared to prior guidance of US$3.6 billion- US$3.9 billion.

 

Do you have an opinion on this article?  Share your views with the industry on our Solar Business Focus LinkedIn group.

28 September 2021
Solar Solutions International is the largest trade show for solar energy in Northwest Europe. Now the solar market has grown up, it's time for the next step. Solar Solutions International displays more than 500 innovations and over 100 practical seminars concerning the latest in energy storage, smart products, and an ever evolving array of solar panels. As an exclusively B2B trade show, Solar Solutions International offers both exhibitors and visitors the chance to network at the highest level. Duurzaam Verwarmd, the largest trade show for sustainable HVAC technology in the Benelux, is held simultaneously. This way your one visit gets you up to date with all of the developments in both sustainable energy and heating.
6 October 2021
Intersolar Europe is the world’s leading exhibition for the solar industry. It takes place as part of The smarter E Europe – the continent’s largest platform for the energy industry. Under the motto “Connecting solar business,” manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, service providers and project planners and developers from around the world meet in Munich every year to discuss the latest developments and trends, explore innovations firsthand and meet potential new customers.
6 October 2021
The future is bright for a new era of US solar and storage, and the 8th annual Solar & Storage Finance Summit will provide opportunities to discuss solutions to the industry’s challenges and provide a networking platform designed to bring together the top minds in the industry to do business. With a mix of high-level, informative presentations and panels, a stellar cast of speakers and audience members with deal-making capacity, the 2021 edition of the event will be a sell-out success.
18 October 2021
Intersolar South America, South America’s largest exhibition and conference for the solar industry, takes place at the Expo Center Norte in São Paulo, Brazil on October 18–20, 2021, and has a focus on the areas of photovoltaics, PV production and solar thermal technologies. At the accompanying Intersolar South America Conference, renowned experts shed light on hot topics in the solar industry.
19 October 2021
This year’s EV World Congress will hold a special role, not only as the first live EverythingEV event in over a year – a chance to renew your connections and re-engage with the EV sector face to face – but also as a chance to share insight and inspiration as world starts to look towards move on post COVID towards hitting ambitious decarbonisation goals in 2030 and beyond. As ever, we will be bringing world leading organisations, cities, and technology providers to the UK to inspire EV innovators, and delve into the challenges facing the sector as the UK looks to revolutionise road transport.
20 October 2021
Utility-scale solar is evolving, shaped by higher power modules and demand for increasingly lower levelised cost of electricity (LCOE). Those trends are also changing project requirements elsewhere, with inverters capable of delivering high power density and power capacity in strong demand. In this webinar, FIMER will detail how its innovative high-power, multi-MPPT string inverter and modular conversion solution can both meet those demands and transform the utility-scale solar sector for the better.

Read Next

PV Tech Premium
September 23, 2021
Backed by a new heterojunction module factory in Florida and the expansion of its production plant in Minnesota, solar manufacturer Heliene is looking to take advantage of US policy support to meet increasing demand for American-made PV equipment. Jules Scully discusses the company’s growth plans with CEO Martin Pochtaruk.
September 23, 2021
Arizonan utility Salt River Project (SRP) and renewables company Clēnera have signed a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) for the CO Bar Solar project that is expected to deliver between 440-480MW of power
September 23, 2021
Russian wholesale electricity market administrator JSC ATS has allocated 775MW of solar PV in the country’s eighth auction round for largescale renewables, which had an average price of ₽5.18/kWh (US$0.071/kWh)
September 22, 2021
Renewables developer and asset manager RES has named Eduardo Medina as its new chief executive designate, with the former Vestas, SunPower and Acciona exec set to take over at the end of next month.
September 22, 2021
More than 190 US solar companies have warned that proposed duties on imports of modules and cells from three Southeast Asian countries represent an “immediate and serious threat” to America’s solar sector.
September 22, 2021
Access to off-grid electricity should be seen as a key mechanism to drive rural development and improve economic wellbeing and living standards in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), according to a new report by University College London’s (UCL) Engineering for International Development Centre and off-grid, pay-as-you go solar company BBOXX.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Solar Media Events
October 6, 2021
Solar Media Events
October 19, 2021
BRISTOL, UK
Solar Media Events
December 1, 2021