First Solar Unveils Series 6 Thin Film PV Module & Above Expected 2018 Guidance

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American solar PV manufacturer First Solar released a flurry of announcements on Tuesday, first among them the unveiling of its first functional Series 6 thin film solar PV module at the company’s Ohio production line.

Presented during a meeting with investment analysts at the company’s new production line in Perrysburg, Ohio, First Solar unveiled its new large area Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) glass-on-glass module which was part of the first batch of material run through the recently activated line. This marks a major milestone for the company’s factory retooling, which began just under a year ago and which required around $177 million in capital investment. The new Perrysburg production line is expected to be producing commercially-available products as early as the second quarter of 2018, and when running at full capacity will have an annual output of 600 MWdc (megawatt-dc).

The new Series 6 line of solar modules is expected to reach the commercial market with a power rating of between 420-445 watts and a solar conversion efficiency of more than 17%. First Solar believes that its new module will produce more watts per lift than comparable crystalline silicon solar panels, and boast that it can “be installed on virtually any ground-based PV mounting system.”

“This is an extraordinary accomplishment, by any measure,” said First Solar CEO Mark Widmar. “Last November, we were in full Series 4 production mode. Since our decision at the end of 2016 to rapidly transition to Series 6, we’ve hit every incremental target with precision. We are absolutely delighted to be on track for delivery of commercial product early next year.”

First Solar also announced its financial guidance for the full year 2018, with expected net sales of between $2.3 to $2.5 billion and Earnings per Share (EPS) of between $1.25 and $1.75. According to Seeking Alpha, the guidance was “above consensus” and resulted in “fresh one-and-a-half-year highs” in the company’s share price. Solar power systems are expected to account for between 75% to 80% of the total of net sales, with third-party module sales making up the remainder. Ending net cash balance for the full year 2018 is expected to be in the range of $1.6 to $1.8 billion.

All these figures are down on the company’s current full-year 2017 guidance — of net sales between $3 to $3.1 billion, EPS of between $2.05 and $2.30, and ending net cash balance of between $2.1 and $2.3 billion — due to higher projected capital expenditures in 2018 to support the company’s Series 6 production ramp.

In addition to these announcements, First Solar also announced two module sale agreements — a 200 MW deal with an affiliate of D. E. Shaw Renewable Investments, L.L.C (DESRI) and another 595 MW three-year deal with Origis Energy USA.

“DESRI is thrilled to continue growing its partnership with First Solar,” said Bryan Martin, CEO of DESRI. “We take great comfort knowing that these projects will benefit from the company’s cutting-edge module technology in the industry, as well as its exceptional O&M services during operations.”

“The bankability of solar and energy storage components is a key consideration for us to deliver high performing clean energy assets to our clients,” said Samir Verstyn, Chief Investment Officer, Origis Energy. “This alliance with First Solar fulfills the site and schedule commitments we have made to the market in the foreseeable future. We are very pleased to construct our projects with First Solar Tier 1 module technology.”

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Joshua S Hill

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