20 June 2011


First Solar

'This year First Solar will produce solar modules with a total capacity of 2.3 gigawatt'

Interview with Stephan Hansen, Managing Director of First Solar Germany


More and more countries are moving away from large open space installations. Which markets will be the most important for First Solar in the next three years?


The market for roof systems is constantly increasing, also for First Solar. Until now, we focused on photovoltaic systems, starting at 30 kilowatts of power. In the future, we will also increase our focus on the area between ten and thirty kilowatts. Our innovative PV-Modules have proven themselves, both as roof and open installation systems. To date we have installed more than 3GWp, worldwide.


Germany and Italy are important markets for roof installations. I also see potential in France and Spain. Other interesting, though more or less developed markets are Benelux, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, and North America.


For open space installation systems, the USA, India, and China rank among the most important markets for the next three years. In the U.S., we are currently in the process of expanding our production as we did in Germany and we are in the process of building a second factory.


The grid parity in Germany and Italy might be achieved in two years due to the falling module prices. What is your opinion about the effect of market segmentation? What does this mean for First Solar?


The term grid parity means different things to different people. Essentially, PV electricity will become price competitive in some EU markets - starting as early as 2013-2014. The question is, which countries will strategically invest in renewably energy in the future? The right energy mix that will ensure a supply of all areas is important. This requires a combination of photovoltaic, wind power, but also gas power plants.


I assume that many solar companies will change their distribution models. You have to be in a closer proximity to the customer and realign geographically.


Grid parity for First Solar means that for the roof market, we will have to meet the current electricity prices for the end consumer. With our cost leadership, we have already taken a significant step in that direction.


What is First Solar’s plan until 2014?


Our core business is and will remain the production of solar modules. Additionally, we are offering system solutions for PV installations. We strive to reduce production costs for our modules and for the entire cost of the system. By 2014, we want to lower our production cost for our modules to about 0,52 - 0,63 Dollars per watt. A crucial factor in reducing costs is to increase efficiency, which will impact the cost range.


Regarding the new providers’ cheaper modules, consisting of copper, indium, gallium, and diselenide (CIGS) – going forward, how will First Solar prevail in the future?


CIGS is an interesting technology and achieves higher efficiencies than cadmium telluride. The coating process for CIGS is much more complicated and thus more expensive, which compensates for the difference of our technology.


We are confident that we can compete in the future. This year we will produce solar modules with a total capacity of 2.3 gigawatt. We are still working on increasing the efficiencies and reducing costs at the same time. This includes both the increase of material output as well as the optimization of the cycle times.



A look into the future: Where do you see the solar industry in three years from now?


The further decrease of the cost of solar technology will eventually lead to global implementation. In any case, new markets will be added – even today, First Solar already invests in future markets such as China, India, or Australia. Thus, the photovoltaic market will stabilize.


I anticipate that the growth rates of recent years will continue and with increasing grid parity, it will grow even more.


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