By Tom Cheyney, Senior Contributing Editor (USA), Photovoltaics International
At First Solar’s corporate headquarters in Tempe, Arizona, a morale-boosting slogan adorns posters stuck to the outside of cubicle partitions: “MILESTONE MADE! TEN ONE ONE.” That’s “Ten,” for 10 years in business - at least in the company’s First Solar incarnation. The original firm Glasstech Solar, led by visionary Harold McMaster, actually set up shop in 1984, then became Solar Cells, Inc. in 1992, which begat the present entity in 1999. The middle “One” stands for the gigawatt’s worth of panels produced in the solar module factories in Ohio, Germany, and Malaysia - as well as the annual production capacity that will be ramped by the end of 2009. The final “One” stands for perhaps the biggest accomplishment of all - the dollar-per-manufactured-watt standard beaten by two cents by First Solar in the final quarter of 2008, a cost that has since shrunk to 93 cents per watt in the first quarter of 2009. But then, “Ten/One/0.93” doesn’t quite have the same ring.