First Solar Series 6 PV modules are now rolling off U.S. production lines

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Tariffs or no tariffs, First Solar is ready to install a ton of PV, making a big splash this week by officially unveiling its first functional Series 6 thin film photovoltaic modules from its Perrysburg, Ohio, production line, as well announcing nearly 800 MW of new affiliate deals.

Series 6 scoop – way more capacity

Presented during a meeting with investment analysts at the Perrysburg facility, the large area Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) glass-on-glass module was part of the first batch of material run completely through the recently activated line. This marks a major milestone in a factory retooling that began just under one year ago, and included approximately $177 million in capital investment.

The new line is expected to be producing commercial product by early in the second quarter of 2018, and will have an annualized output of 600 MWdc when operating at full capacity.

Series 6 is expected to enter the commercial market with a power rating of 420-445 watts and conversion efficiency of over 17 percent. Measuring approximately 2 meters by 1.2 meters, Series 6 modules will provide more watts per lift than comparable crystalline silicon solar panels, and can be installed on virtually any ground-based PV mounting system.

“This is an extraordinary accomplishment, by any measure,” said First Solar CEO Mark Widmar. “Last November, we were in full Series 4 production mode. Since our decision at the end of 2016 to rapidly transition to Series 6, we’ve hit every incremental target with precision. We are absolutely delighted to be on track for delivery of commercial product early next year.”

Also during the meeting with analysts, First Solar announced it is expanding its production facility in Vietnam, essentially doubling production capacity of the initial site, which is still under construction. Annualized production capacity in Vietnam, when fully operational, will be 2.4 GWdc. This, in combination with Perrysburg and facilities in Kulim, Malaysia, will give First Solar a total Series 6 manufacturing capacity of approximately 5.4 GWdc by 2020, and represents approximately $1.4 billion in capital investment.

In late November of 2016, as a response to the highly competitive and dynamic PV market environment and customer demand for higher efficiency modules, First Solar made a strategic decision to accelerate development and production of Series 6. The new product, still based on First Solar’s unique thin film CdTe PV technology, increases physical dimensions and performance characteristics while adding an under-mount frame that allows for simple, high-velocity installation of the product in the field. With an excellent temperature coefficient, spectral response and shading behavior, Series 6 modules will generate significantly more energy than conventional crystalline silicon modules.

Widmar said First Solar will continue to maintain some Series 4 production at the Kulim plant as long as economic global demand calls for the product.

Deals!

First Solar, Inc. also completed module sale deals with an affiliate of D. E. Shaw Renewable Investments, L.L.C. (DESRI) totaling 200 MWdc and Origis Energy USA for nearly 600 MWdc.

The DESRI delivery dates are set for 2019. In addition, First Solar signed operations and maintenance (O&M) contracts for two projects that DESRI is developing. In addition to this module sale, DESRI has acquired three solar projects from First Solar since 2016 – the 40MWac Cuyama Solar Project in Santa Barbara County, Calif., the 31MWac Portal Ridge Solar Project in Los Angeles County, Calif., and the 11MWac Rancho Seco Solar Project in Sacramento County, Calif.

The Origis Energy USA deal spans a three-year delivery date schedule. The agreement includes delivery of First Solar’s Series 4 modules in 2017 and 2018, as well as Series 6 modules in 2019 and 2020. The advanced technology thin film modules will be utilized in various projects throughout the United States in which Origis Energy is constructing solar sites.

“The bankability of solar and energy storage components is a key consideration for us to deliver high performing clean energy assets to our clients,” said Samir Verstyn, Chief Investment Officer, Origis Energy. “This alliance with First Solar fulfills the site and schedule commitments we have made to the market in the foreseeable future. We are very pleased to construct our projects with First Solar Tier 1 module technology.”