First Solar has been on the uptick lately. Last week its 230 megawatt Solar Ranch One project in California’s Antelope Valley was allowed to move forward. And on June 25, 2012, First Solar announced that it has installed 10 million of its modules.
While that’s an impressive figure for a company that’s only been in the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) side of solar for half a decade, and for a company that’s been producing modules for just a decade, it’s only part of the company’s overall production. The company has produced over 80 million modules since it went commercial.
“First Solar began commercial production in 2002, and didn’t embark on EPC and self-development till much later in the decade, acquiring Turner Renewables (EPC) at the end of 2007 and the OptiSolar project development pipeline in 2009,” said First Solar spokesperson Alan Bernheimer. “The first utility scale project we built was the 10 megawatt El Dorado project, completed at the end of 2008. The second was Blythe, at 21 megawatts, completed at the end of 2009. So the majority of the company’s cumulative historical module production was installed by others,” he said.
As First Solar moves forward the amount of projects it develops itself, as opposed to selling modules to third-parties could increase. During its recent earnings report First Solar Chairman Mike Ahearn said the company’s existing project pipeline is the ‘cornerstone’ of the company’s five-year plan. “We expect our pipeline installations to be approximately 1.2 gigawatts DC in 2012 and 2.8 gigawatts DC in the aggregate for the period 2012 to 2014, and to generate on a net cash receipts basis in aggregate of $3.4 billion,” he said.
The company is executing on utility-scale projects in the U.S. and abroad. Already its surpassed the 100 megawatt mark at its 290 megawatt Agua Caliente solar project in Yuma County, Ariz., Bernheimer said. First Solar also is expanding into new markets where solar is cost-competitive with other forms of energy, without subsidies. For instance, the company recently signed 159 megawatts of projects in Australia, he said.