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Clean Power First Solar Ranks First In Utility-Scale Solar Installation

Published on March 23rd, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan

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#1 Solar Developer & #2 Solar Module Manufacturer Is…

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March 23rd, 2013 by Zachary Shahan 

Adding on to a couple of recent CleanTechnica posts, here’s a short look at First Solar’s solar power leadership, reposted from Solar Love:

US-based First Solar seems to have done a pretty good job naming itself. It is the #1 solar developer in the world (based on March 2013 data), the #1 solar EPC contractor in the world (same data source), and the #2 solar module manufacturer in the world (based on 2012 figures). Furthermore, regarding that third point, it is the only thin-film solar module manufacturer in the top 10.

Regarding point number one, here’s Wiki-Solar’s latest ranking of utility-scale solar power developers:

top solar developers

This is based on cumulative capacity, and it’s just for 10MW+ solar power plants. Wiki-Solar provides some more context to chew on: “We had 12.4GW of utility-scale plants on our database, when this list was compiled in March-13. Of that capacity, developers are listed against 81%; of which this top-20 list accounts for 49%.”


Regarding First Solar’s supremacy on this list, CleanTechnica‘s Joshua Hill this week reported: “At the top of the list, with a total of 759 MW across 11 sites, is First Solar, which includes the largest plant currently operating — and still under construction — the Agua Caliente Solar Farm in the Southwest corner of Arizona. The farm, owned by NRG Energy and MidAmerican Energy, topped 250 MW last September and is expected to total over 300 MW upon final completion some time in 2014.”

First Solar is also tops on the EPC contractors list (which, of course, is related):

Top20EPC

And if that wasn’t enough to increase your respect for this Arizona-based company, it’s also worth noting that this vertically integrated solar pioneer was the #2 solar module manufacturer in 2012, according to NPD Solarbuzz:

top solar module manufacturer

And, unlike #1 Yingli Green Energy, First Solar had considerable gross profit in 2012 (and almost net profit):

first solar profit loss

Now, this is clearly a tough time for solar module manufacturers. Cutthroat competition, excessive subsidies for Chinese solar module manufacturers, a glut of solar modules, and a race to the bottom (in price), is wearing hard on every business in this sector of the industry. However, it seems likely that First Solar will be one of the first in this sector to pull out of this “growing pains” stretch.

Furthermore, word on the street (post coming) is that thin-film solar modules will (sooner or later) be more cost-competitive than conventional PV modules in most applications. We’ll see, but I think that is likely to propel First Solar even further into the lead.

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About the Author

spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as the director/chief editor. Otherwise, he's probably enthusiastically fulfilling his duties as the director/editor of Solar Love, EV Obsession, Planetsave, or Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and wind energy expert. If you would like him to speak at a related conference or event, connect with him via social media. You can connect with Zach on any popular social networking site you like. Links to all of his main social media profiles are on ZacharyShahan.com.



  • Jim

    Bosch said it will sell or shut down solar energy operations after heavily loss-making, the latest blow to Germany green energy.

  • Carl Chindelay

    You listed Suntech as a top-10 performance, Suntech gone broke? This is the last place we would buy solar panels without warranty. Don’t be surprised if all these companies will go broke in the next few months. You can rate Suntech in the top-10 worst of performer now.

    • Ross

      Be _very_ surprised.

      • Shiggity

        Carl, read up on command capitalism. China is thinking about a carbon tax and has an insane goal for 2015 with solar installations. These companies will go into bankruptcy, but the government will carry them.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Suntech is likely going to stay in business under the control of its local govt. IN any case, some manufacturers will certainly fold (there are far too many right now: http://cleantechnica.com/2013/03/27/maturing-industries-short-infographic/ ). However, the solar market is still growing in leaps and bounds, so some will clearly survive and prosper, and some of these top companies are more likely than most to be the lucky ones. Btw, this whole industry shakeout process is a natural part of industry maturation. Happens in basically every tech industry, and many others. http://cleantechnica.com/2013/01/27/solar-industry-shakeout-what-it-means/

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