First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) is up over 7% in trading today because JPMorgan analysts said that the company was one of their top picks within the green energy sector. This made First Solar one of the S&P 500’s biggest gainers today. Year to date, First Solar has risen around 50%. First Solar made deals this year to acquire new technology and expanded their project portfolio through new acquisitions.
First Solar’s panels are manufactured using a cadmium telluride (Cd-Te) based thin-film technology. Cd-Te technology is behind polycrystalline panels, which has higher conversion efficiency and better costs. Polycrystalline panels typically have efficiencies of around 14% to 15% and First Solar?s panels have an average efficiency of about 13%, according to Trefis in a Forbes report. Chinese polycrystalline sells for between $0.60 and $0.65 per watt while First Solar’s manufacturing costs are around $0.67 per watt.
General Electric sold their thin-film manufacturing technology to First Solar along with related patents. First Solar also acquired a high-efficiency polycrystalline solar company called TetraSun. First Solar’s revenues are expected to hit $4.8 billion in 2015. First Solar’s are pursuing bookings that are expected to total around 8GW. As of August 2013, First Solar’s total backlog bookings fell to 2.2 gigawatts from around 2.2 gigawatts in the beginning of the year.
First Solar is expected to grow their business in China and Japan. China is expected to become the world’s largest solar market based on volumes this year while Japan could become the second largest market. First Solar has a small presence in both markets.
In 2009, First Solar signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese government to build a 2 gigawatt solar plant in Inner Mongolia. That project never took off, but the construction is expected to start during Q3 of this year subject to regulatory approvals. The second phase of this project is expected to start in the second half of 2014.
First Solar is also expected to begin production of solar cells in Japan using high efficiency solar panels in the second half of 2014.