First Solar, Inc. (FSLR) Shifts Focus To Smaller Projects


First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) is now focusing aggressively on smaller projects as demand for the large-scale solar farms from utilities slows. The Tempe-based company is boosting efforts to install solar systems in warehouses and industrial sites. First Solar CEO Jim Hughes said at an analyst event yesterday that pursuing smaller projects can increase the company’s sales by as much as 36% over the next three years.

First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) generates about 65% of its revenues by selling large solar farms to utilities. But most U.S. utilities have purchased enough farms to meet state requirements for green energy. According to Goldman Sachs, large scale solar farm installations are estimated to growth 8% annual rate between 2013 and 2016. But rooftop installations would jump at 45% rate in the same period.

First Solar CEO confident they will compete in rooftop market

The company is also seeking deals in international markets such as India, South America, Saudi Arabia and Japan. Last year, the company purchased Japan-based TetraSun to bolster its presence in Japanese rooftop market. Hughes said he is confident that First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) can compete for rooftops, a market currently dominated by SolarCity Corp (NASDAQ:SCTY).

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Yesterday, First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) said it expects its earnings to increase from $2.20-$2.60 this year to $4.50-$6 in 2015. That sent the stock up by 21% yesterday. Shares rose another 1.80% today to $70.65 at 11:33 AM EDT. First Solar COO Georges Antoun said that the company is currently competing on 15 commercial-scale solar projects that have a combined capacity of 45 megawatts. Antoun said First Solar has been shortlisted for 15MW of those projects. The company has also entered into a partnership with General Electric Company (NYSE:GE).

First Solar to boost panel efficiency and cut development costs

First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) needs to cut development costs and boost panel efficiency to win more projects. That’s why the solar panel maker plans to start producing polysilicon panels through TetraSun. Polysilicon panels are more efficient that First Solar’s thin-film cadmium-telluride panels. Panel improvements will bring down the installed system cost from $1.59 a watt last year to less than $1 by 2017.

First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) said it will increase the module production from 1.6GW last year to 1.9GW this year. By restarting the old production lines and opening new ones, First Solar will be able to produce 4.8GW of modules in 2018.

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