What rabbit will First Solar pull out of the hat?

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

Update (2): First Solar is holding a conference call tomorrow (Wednesday, December 14, 8:00am EST) to provide financial guidance for 2012. As we noted recently, the CdTe thin-film leader is set to be the first of any major PV manufacturer to give guidance for next year, after what can only be described as a ‘challenging’ year for the whole industry.

With module prices set to continue to decline, though not at the same rate next year, the industry faces a multitude of issues so the call tomorrow could set the scene for much of the industry.

Moreover, there is a good chance First Solar could regain the industry’s number one spot again, having already guided 2011 revenue to be in the range of US$3.0 billion to US$3.3 billion.

The 2010 leader and nearest rival in the revenue stakes, Suntech has already guided 2011 revenue of between US$3.0-US$3.1 billion, adding to the interest in First Solar’s guidance call.

However, First Solar is facing a tough time competing with falling c-Si module prices and the collapse of polysilicon prices that have yet to fully permeate through to product production costs and therefore lower product prices.

Though having been cushioned by its massive multi-gigawatt project pipeline, financing problems have emerged once again, especially in Europe. FiT changes have also shifted markets in Europe towards rooftop and that hasn’t been one of First Solar’s strengths having lower module efficiency levels than either CIGS thin film technologies and conventional crystalline silicon offerings.

Though much of the current utility-scale business in US focused and First Solar leads the pack in that respect, China is ramping-up ground-mounted projects and that is a market the company wants to be a major player in but has yet to secure a foothold.

With 2012 industry dynamics difficult to gauge, other than perhaps it could be worse than this year has proved to be; one financial analyst believes First Solar will have to pull a rabbit out of its hat if the financial markets are going to react positively to guidance.

According to Jesse Pichel at Jeffries, First Solar may need two rabbits!

The financial analyst thinks that if First Solar announces the introduction of a high-efficiency CIGS thin-film module it would signify the company could better compete in the rooftop market going forward.

Though it’s the worst kept secret that First Solar has been developing CIGS technology the company has yet to make any public statement on the subject.

Should a CIGS module roadmap not be on the agenda tomorrow, Pichel is looking for an announcement about adding crystalline modules to its product portfolio, again to address the rooftop market.

Such is the concern for another challenging year, no rabbit from the hat and First Solar stock price will remain as depressed as the market.

We have less than 24 hours to find out. 

Update
 
In perhaps what could be a rather ironic development, The Wall Street Journal broke news that Markus Beck, a senior member of First Solar’s R&D team and well known for his CIGS cell technology work in the earlier days of Solyndra has left the company. 
 
According to the WSJ report, other members of his team in the CIGS development centre in Santa Clara have also left the company. WSJ cited a ‘person familiar with the situation,’ as no official statement had been announced. 
 
The report suggests that First Solar was narrowing-down its R&D focus in the tough financial conditions. 
 
This development could mean that its CIGS development efforts are over and that the company could be shifting work to pilot line, though the suggestion in the WSJ report that CIGS R&D was being scaled down or closed completely is also a valid assumption. 
 
Update 2. 
 
During the 2012 guidance call, First Solar management were asked in the Q&A session with financial analysts about the validity of the WSJ story. Management noted in response that its R&D spending forecast would be reduced and that it would have been substantially higher otherwise. 
 
Management noted that if they hadn’t made changes to R&D efforts, then costs would have risen significantly. 
 
The impression given was that its CIGS development efforts to date did not give management confidence that it could compete effectively with other CIGS manufacturers such as Solar Frontier in Japan, which had higher module efficiencies and manufacturing scale to offer strong competition in the future when First Solar would be vulnerable to pricing pressure on ramping and improving yields and efficiencies. 
 
Overall, the conference call produced no rabbits from the hat. 

 

28 July 2021
LONGi has launched its Hi-MO N module, the company's first bifacial module with N-type TOPCon cells, designed to deliver ultra- high value and lower LCOE to utility-scale PV power plants. This PV TechTalk Product Series webinar will provide an overview of the module’s technology and how the introduction of n-type technologies will provide efficiency and performance gains for solar project developers.
29 July 2021
This free webinar will explore the ongoing opportunities in the UK solar PV market, looking at global technology trends and how they apply to the UK. Join us for an overview of the project pipeline and forecast for deployment over the coming years. We'll be looking at the types of modules available and being used in the UK and presenting a case study on the deployment of bifacial modules in this market.
19 August 2021
The utility-scale PV market is poised for exponential growth and yet the industry still has many fundamental opportunities to improve on standards and best practice. Tracker shade loss has been one of those topics that deserve more attention, but has been typically handled by derate factors rather than trying to accurately forecast the loss over the life of the system. Join Nextracker’s subject matter experts, Aron Dobos and Neelesh Umachandran, and Rounak Kharait, director of solar energy assessments at DNV, for a webinar about why shade modeling matters and recommendations on what the solar industry should do about it.
25 August 2021
Energy Next is a new industry exhibition focusing on the latest renewable energy and energy efficiency technology, which will be held for the first time in 2021 in Sydney, Australia alongside the Clean Energy Council’s Australian Clean Energy Summit, the peak gathering of leaders driving Australia's energy transformation. Organised by the same people behind Australia’s largest clean energy event, All-Energy Australia, Energy Next will give visitors two days of access to key suppliers in the industry, free-to-attend professional development and industry workshops, and networking opportunities to better understand clean energy issues and solutions and learn about the latest developments in this transformational, dynamic sector.
25 August 2021
The Intersolar Summit Brasil Nordeste takes place in Fortaleza, Brazil. It addresses leading local and international experts on solar power and renewable energy in the region. The Summit’s mission is to provide in-depth education, enable high-quality networking opportunities, expand the use of PV technologies at regional and national level and strengthen the local PV industry. The Intersolar Summit Brasil Nordeste is organized by Intersolar South America - Latin America’s largest exhibition and conference for the solar industry: Solar Promotion International GmbH, Pforzheim, Freiburg Management and Marketing International GmbH (FMMI) and Aranda Eventos & Congressos Ltda, São Paulo as co-organizer.
25 August 2021
Join us to hear directly from the CTOs and heads-of-research from the top-20 cell/wafer producers to the PV industry today. The event will focus on predicting the key metrics underpinning the next big shift to n-type with answers to the key questions: When will the transition to n-type happen? Which companies will be first to 10 GW capacity and production? Who will be the key equipment suppliers for the new production lines? Which n-type process flow/architecture will emerge as the front-runner? What will polysilicon purity and wafer thickness levels look like for optimized n-type manufacturing? What will the upstream poly/wafer supply-chain look like in 5 years from now?

Read Next

July 27, 2021
Greek industrial group Mytilineos recorded a net profit of €77 million (US$91 million) in H1 2021, however the firm’s renewables division witnessed a drop in revenue year-on-year.
July 27, 2021
Canadian Solar has closed a BRL500 million (US$100 million) financing facility to develop a Brazilian solar portfolio claimed to be the country’s largest, while also giving it the option to hold built solar assets for longer.
July 27, 2021
Community Choice Aggregators (CCA) Central Coast Community Energy (CCCE) and Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE) have signed contracts for 778MW of renewable energy generation and 118.75MW of energy storage in California.
July 27, 2021
More than 140 business leaders have urged the US Congress to pass President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, telling lawmakers that the bill is “desperately needed” to renew the nation’s infrastructure
July 27, 2021
A round-up of the latest news from the US solar market, featuring Vision Solar’s commitment to hire “hundreds” of sales staff as part of a two-state expansion, Recurrent Energy’s sale of two major assets in Texas and news of 8minute Solar Energy strengthening its legal team.
July 27, 2021
Tesla reported retrofit solar installations of 85MW in Q2 2021, cementing its recovery from a worst-ever performance in the corresponding period last year.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Solar Media Events, Upcoming Webinars
July 29, 2021
Webinar
Upcoming Webinars
August 19, 2021
At 9am (PT) | 6pm (CEST)
Solar Media Events
August 25, 2021