Thin film solar is becoming an increasingly important segment of the solar industry. Thin-film solar cells consist of layers of active materials about 10 µm thick compared with 200- to 300-µm layers for crystalline-silicon cells. Some sixty companies have announced to start thin film production by 2010, and EuPD Research estimates that by then, the production output will amount to 3.5 GW. According to the EIA, in 2006 thin film represented a 30% share of the of the 337,268 Wp of photovoltaic cells shipped by the U.S. solar industry, as compared to 12% in 2004. in 2007 total solar (including solar thermal) represented less than 1% of the total of all renewable energy [including biomass (53%), hydroelectric (36%), geothermal (5%) and wind (5%)] which in turn represented just 7% of total energy consumption in the U.S. Cadmium telluride PV (CdTe PV) is the only thin film photovoltaic technology to surpass crystalline silicon PV in the marketplace, in terms of lower system price, for a significant portion of the PV market.
First Solar, Inc. (Nasdaq: FSLR), producer of Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) PV modules, is the largest manufacturer of thin film solar modules, expanding manufacturing capacity to an expected 735 MW in 2008; and with additional plants under construction, First Solar will bring total expected capacity to more than 1 GW by the end of 2009.
At the end of 2007, over 300 MW of First Solar PV modules had been installed worldwide and First Solar expects to ship 420 to 460 MW of PV modules in 2008.
First Solar announced on October 29 groundbreaking for the expansion of its Perrysburg, Ohio facility which will increase the annual capacity at the facility to approximately 192 megawatts. Plant construction is expected to be complete by the first half of 2009, with full volume production expected by the second quarter of 2010.
On the same date First Solar, Inc. and SolarCity Corporation announced a module supply agreement and investment that will make solar power an affordable option for more U.S. homeowners and businesses. The two companies have entered into a five-year agreement that calls for First Solar to supply 100 megawatts of its thin film solar modules to SolarCity, marking First Solar's entrance into the U.S. residential segment. Pursuant to the agreement, First Solar will begin delivering modules to SolarCity in the first quarter of 2009. First Solar will also make a $25 million equity investment in SolarCity; part of a $30 million round of financing that will fund SolarCity's continued U.S. expansion. SolarCity's innovative SolarLease(TM) financing option allows homeowners to switch to solar power for less money than they currently pay for electricity from their power company, without the need for a large upfront investment.
First Solar is the cost leader in the solar PV industry. First Solar has the lowest manufacturing cost per watt in the industry, $1.08/watt for the third quarter of 2008. Future module costs well below $1.00/Wp have been predicted by NREL
The modules are manufactured on high throughput, automated lines that integrate each production step, from semiconductor deposition to final assembly and test, in one continuous process.
The use of CdTe produces high energy yield across a wide range of conditions. The efficiency of this semiconductor material is less susceptible to cell temperature increases than traditional semiconductors, enabling First Solar thin film modules to generate relatively more electricity under high ambient (and therefore high cell) temperatures. The semiconductor material also converts low and diffuse light to electricity more efficiently than conventional cells under cloudy weather and dawn and dusk conditions. As a result, First Solar thin film modules will generally produce more electricity under real world conditions than conventional solar modules with similar power ratings.These attributes have led the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado to recognize CdTe's potential for achieving the lowest production costs among current thin film technologies. (Photon International, November 2004, page 50). As a result, future module costs well below $1.00/Wp have been predicted by NREL.
Both cadmium and tellurium are byproducts of the mining and production of base metals such as zinc and copper. First Solar claims these materials are present in abundant quantities to support multi-GWs of annual production.
Their largest project to date, shown at begining of post, is a 40 MW plant started in 2007 and to be completed in 2009 in Brandis, Germany.
The company is currently building a 10 megawatt (MW) photovoltaic (PV) power plant for Sempra Generation near Boulder City, Nevada. Construction began in July; the plant is expected to be completed by the end of 2008.
In addition, First Solar has announced that the CPUC approved project terms of a 20 year power purchase agreement between First Solar and SCE for the sale of electricity generated by a PV power plant. First Solar plans to build the new plant in Blythe, CA. The PV power plant will be a minimum of 7.5 megawatts, with an option by First Solar to increase the size to 21 megawatts, and when completed will be the largest ground based PV power plant in California. First Solar expects to begin construction of the PV power plant in 2009.
Financial results for the third quarter ended September 27, 2008. Quarterly revenues were $348.7 million, up from $267.0 million in the second quarter of fiscal 2008 and up from $159.0 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2007.