First Solar Seeks New Opportunities

SolarFirst Solar, the largest solar-panel maker in the U.S., has announced plans to seek deals with industrial sites and warehouses to increase sales. CEO Jim Hughes spoke at an analyst event in New York this week about pursuing smaller projects to increase sales by as much as 36 percent over the next three years.

Last year, the majority of First Solar’s sales came from selling large solar farms to utilities. However, as U.S. power companies have begun to meet state requirements, and no longer need to buy more solar energy, First Solar is looking for other opportunities. Hughes says he is seeking deals with U.S. commercial and industrial rooftops. In addition, he is working on deals in places such as India, Saudi Arabia, and South America.

Zintro expert Suresh Warrier, a CEO in the renewable energy sector, speaks about the solar industry in India. “The Solar scenario in India is surging forward and the installation is set to reach 5000 MW in a

nother 2 years,” says Warrier. “This is including roof top for residential and commercial (utility) scale installations. The reach out of First Solar to the Asian countries is commendable. The Indian Solar Policy has given a major boost in investment in India with almost all the Sate Governments following suit.”

Warrier has noticed consumers in India expressing more interest in solar energy in general. “With ROI also being good, the number of players is increasing,” Warrier says. “Consumers who were skeptical about installation are showing more interest off-grid, on-grid (roof-tops) and utility scale in various parts of India, particularly Rajastan, Gujrat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Madya Pradesh. With Kerala coming with a draft policy which is going to be a trend setter in India, in net metering the overall feel-good approach to solar is on the increase.”

Zintro expert Mike Nemeth is a licensed professional engineer with almost 30 years of experience. He is currently President of Nemeth Energy Solutions, Inc., which provides solar and wind energy system design and installation management solutions. He says, “There is a huge potential market out there for just this kind of installation, as I continue to find with my own company. If they are looking for adding solar PV to existing warehouses, forget it. Most of them are not built to handle the extra rooftop weight – they can hardly handle snow load, let alone a few tons of solar PV modules. It really depends on how the building is built; some buildings can handle it and some would collapse under the weight. But with that, I wholeheartedly applaud First Solar’s focus! What a great way to bring distributed generation to industrial parks where their roofs are just going to waste!”

Anco Blazev is a Zintro expert with over 30 years of hands-on experience in the solar industry. He is currently CTO and acting president of a CPV and CPV-T equipment design and manufacturing firm in Arizona. “First Solar has two problems,” cautions Blazev. “First, their CdTe PV modules contain significant amounts of toxic, carcinogenic, heavy metal cadmium. Since the CdTe technology has not been proven safe for large scale (utility type) installations in the deserts, there is a serious danger of the modules contaminating the environment with time.

“Secondly, CdTe PV modules are less efficient than their mono- and poly-silicon competitors, thus require 1/4 – 1/3 more space for the same power output. Since rooftop space is limited, silicon PV modules are preferred in most cases. An exception here is geographic areas with limited solar insolation, since CdTe modules are somewhat more efficient at diffused light.”

According to the Bloomberg website, Arizona-based First Solar forecasts an increase in earnings in 2014 from $2.20 to $2.60.

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