The challenging market conditions faced by all PV manufacturers in 2011 have led to many claiming poor visibility into business expectations next year. In recent third quarter conference calls many tier 1 suppliers refrained from giving any 2012 insight, with guidance provided near or during fourth quarter financial results early next year. However, market leading thin-film producer, First Solar is set to become the first player to guide 2012 in a conference call set for December 14 at 8:00 a.m. EST.

First Solar has already guided 2011 revenue to be in the range of US$3.0 billion to US$3.3 billion, coming off the back of US$1 billion in revenue in the third quarter.

Significantly, 2010 global market leader by revenue, Suntech has guided 2011 revenue of between US$3.0-US$3.1 billion, down from previous guidance of between US$3.2-US$3.4 billion.

Another leading player, Yingli Green has reported revenue through the third quarter of 2011 at US$1,875 million, but guided PV module shipments to be in the range of 1,580MW to 1,630MW, down from previous guidance of between 1,700MW to 1,750MW, compared to Suntech’s 2GW forecast.

Should First Solar exceed the low point of full-year guidance, it could regain the industry leading position it lost to Suntech last year.

As the industry braces itself for a challenging 2012, guidance from First Solar takes on new significance and could set the benchmark for other tier 1 producers, while giving the earliest visibility into the muddy waters of 2012, others have not yet felt confident enough to provide.

Mike Ahearn, chairman of the board and interim chief executive officer and Mark Widmar, chief financial officer, will conduct the live webcast on December 14.