Setting the lowest cost per watt production figures in the photovoltaics industry while ramping production past the 1GW level in 2009, should prove to be the key reasons why First Solar becomes the largest solar cell producer in 2009, leapfrogging Q-Cells and Sharp for the first time. According to market research firm, iSuppli Corp, First Solar is set to produce more than double the 503MW it made in 2008 and increase its market share as well as be responsible for nearly a third of global installations this year!
Totting-up first-half year figures and taking into account third quarter company projections, iSuppli has projected some impressive gains for the CdTe thin film leader in 2009. The market research firm believes that First Solar is set to produce 1,100 Megawatts (MW) worth of solar cells in 2009 and actually have the majority of this record production level installed rather than a given percentage stuck in inventory. This is in contrast to many rivals facing inventory build as the weak market simply cannot absorb the significant overcapacity being generated this year.
“First Solar sells its products at very competitive prices, always undercutting crystalline cells,” noted Dr. Henning Wicht, Senior Director and Principal analyst for iSuppli. “With its capability to produce cells at a cost of 89 cents per watt in the second quarter, First Solar is generating stable operating margins, while its competitors are struggling to stay profitable. Despite global oversupply of PV modules, First Solar is continuing to expand and is able to sell nearly all of its finished goods.”
First Solar will also be the only company among the Top-4 (Suntech, Sharp & Q-Cells) solar cell suppliers able to gain market share in 2009, according to iSuppli. Its global share is expected to rise to nearly 13% (12.8), up from 7.5% in 2008.
More impressively, iSuppli predicts that First Solar’s cells will account for as much as 28% of the estimated 3.92GW total installed base for 2009, closing in on a third of the expected market demand for the year.
Because of its cost advantage, thin film technology overall will grow to account for 34.5% of worldwide solar production in terms of MW in 2013, up from 14.2% in 2008.