First Solar announced that it will expand production of its Series 5 thin-film photovoltaic modules at its solar power plant in Kulim, Malaysia. In doing so, it also announced that it will halt production of its silicon solar panels.
The Series 5 solar panels are already closing in on the efficiency of silicon solar panels. First Solar’s reported that its CdTe-based Series 5 solar panels are up to 16.8 percent efficient at converting sunlight into electricity. Many silicon solar panels are upwards of 18 percent efficient. With less efficiency solar panels need more space to produce energy.
Thin-film solar panels can cost less to produce than other technologies, so even when they take up more space, they can still cost less overall. But because of the space requirements they’re less ideal for solar power in cramped spaces like rooftops. For that reason, and others, First Solar has concentrated on large-scale solar developments. But it also had purchased TetraSun which was producing high-efficiency silicon panels.
"TetraSun is a sound technology for space constrained rooftops, and served largely as a hedge against CdTe technology competitiveness that had challenged us in the past," said First Solar Chief Operating Officer Tymen de Jong. "With the success of our CdTe roadmap reflected in our record 22.1 percent cell efficiency, along with the proven higher energy yield and superior performance inherent in our thin film technology, that hedge is no longer needed."
"Over the past two years, execution of our CdTe technology roadmap has positioned the product as the industry leader for utility-scale solar, as well as established a promising path into the future,” de Jong said. “The Series 5 module, and the Series 6 module still in concept development, are game-changing products that position us for exciting growth. They require the full attention of our manufacturing operations," said de Jong.
The company will completed its shift to manufacturing the Series 5 solar panels on all of its manufacturing lines by early 2017, according to First Solar. The company said the shift will incur impairment and related charges of approximately $90 million to $110 million and are expected to reduce First Solar's operating expenses by $2 million to $4 million this year and $8 million to $10 million annually going forward.Tweet