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First Solar Solar Panels Price,Efficiency Competitors Review and How to Buy- First Solar Module Cost Per Watt for Households

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First Solar Solar PanelsFirst Solar is going to the biggest producer of solar panels in the world despite having a solar panel technology which differs from almost all of its competitors.First Solar Solar Panels use Cadmium-Tellurium Thin Film Solar Technology while the majority of the Solar Industry uses Crystalline Silicon Technology.Despite the difference First Solar is the most valued solar stock in the world and has been for a long time.Despite stiff competition from the silicon technology and most of the thin film companies going bankrupt,First Solar has managed to hold on cutting costs and improving yields continuously.In fact First Solar Solar Panels have the lowest cost of production in the world.First Solar Solar Panels efficiency has also increased in the last few years such that First Solar is now targeting commercial segments of the market.Note First Solar earlier used to sell solar panels mostly to developers and utilities to build ground mounted solar panel farms where the lower efficiency of the Cd-Te solar panels did not matter.The reason is that in large solar farms space and area constraints are not there unlike in rooftops where the space is a major issue.

First Solar Panels Efficiency

First Solar Panels are now rated at an efficiency of 12 percent which in layman terms implies that if 100 units of solar energy strikes a First Solar Solar Module then on an average 12 units of solar electricity will be produced.Note this depends on various factors like temperature etc.First Solar is claiming that the efficiency of the solar cells made in its lab has reached more than 17% and it would in future would be able to sell solar panels with an efficiency of 15%.

First Solar Solar Panel Prices

The prices are generally not disclosed however the price of a solar panel made by First Solar has been historically priced at a discount to crystalline solar panels.However with the rapid decrease of these  solar panel prices,First Solar is now more or less on par with the lower priced solar panels in the market.In bulk orders of 1 mw or more you could buy solar panels from First Solar at $1.20-1.30/watt.However note solar panel prices are a moving target and can fluctuate quite rapidly based on supply and demand dynamics

How to Buy First Solar Panels

First Solar Panels are not generally sold to residential owners and are mostly sold through trusted distributors of First Solar.First Solar has established relationships with a select group of  project developers, system integrators, and operators . You can buy only in sizes of greater than 10 kilowatts (which is around 1200 modules ) you can contact First Solar or their distributors (which are mostly in Germany) .

First Solar Panel Cost per Watt

First Solar Panel costs per watt have shown a decreasing trend ever since the company started disclosing its cost of operations.The current cost per watt of a solar panel is around 73c/watt and First Solar is targeting to reach around 52c/watt by 2014-1205.The company claims that it can put up a fully loaded solar plant at $1.7/watt which would include the prices  of solar panels,inverters,cabling and labor cost

First Solar Solar Panels for The Commercial Segment

1) First Solar FS-3 Modules Facts

FS-3 Panels are rated at 75-85 watts which are the highest power modules that First Solar sells.This is however much lower than the stand 200-300 watt modules sold by c-Si companies.

Length 1200mm
Width 600mm
Weight 12kg
Thickness 6.8mm
Area 0.72 m2
Cell Type CdS/CdTe semiconductor,
154 active cells
Frame Material None

Nominal Values FS-375 FS-377 FS-380 FS-382 FS-385
Nominal Power(+/-5%) PMPP(W) 75.0 77.5 80.0 82.5 85.0

First Solar Thin Film Competitors

Note there are a number of  small thin film companies in the world but there are only a few thin film companies which have a manufacturing operations on a commercial scale.Many of even these thin film manufacturers are facing problems due to rapidly decreasing prices of Chinese solar panels.

Sharp – Sharp,the Japanese Zaibatsu known more for its Electronics Products is also the world’s No 1 Company in terms Solar Module Revenues.Despite its leadership in c-Si Technology,it has shifted focus to a-Si thin film due to higher costs.Sharp has started shipping a-Si modules from its 1 GW capacity plant in Sakai.With its established distribution strengths and technological abilities in LCD Technology,Sharp is one company that can survive the c-Si onslaught.With most of the a-Si thin film competitors bankrupt or in a moribund state,Sharp can capitalize to completely capture this space.However the cost structure of Sharp is not clearly known right now to make a clear call on how this will turn out.Also a 10% efficiency while decent for a-Si technology fall far short of the 13% claims by CIGS start-ups like Miasole.

Solar Frontier – Solar Frontier is a subsidiary of Showa Shell Sekiyu and is listed on the Japanese Stock Exchange.The Company has big plans for the Solar Energy Market planning to increase its capacity by more than 10 times in 2011 to around 1 Gw in total.All its 3 plants are located in Miyazaki in Japan and uses previous plasma plant of Hitachi.Solar Frontier claims 11.5% efficiency for its CIS modules which are expected to go upto 14% by 2014.The Company is spending around $1 Billion in Capex for building the 1 GW capacity implying roughly $1 capex/watt which is not exactly cheap though not very expensive either.

Miasole – Miasole made a major splash announcing a record breaking 13.8% efficiencythin film module which it will ship in 2011.The company has also raised another $100 million in equity finance despite fall in its pre-IPO valution to $550 million from $1.2 billion earlier.Seems an attractive target for a takeover.

Nanosolar – This secretive CIGs startup has big backers in the form of Google and others.The company is planning to build a massive plant in US but till now there has been little news about its commercial shipments,efficiency or costs.Remains to be seen if it manages to succeed or joins the long list of thin film deaths.

Abound Solar – Abound Solar which is a CdTe startup has also received a massive loan guarantee like Solyndra earlier.This money is going to be used to set up manufacturing facilities in Indiana and Colorado.Abound Solar has been heavily supported the the US government’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and is in the process of starting a 200 MW plant in Colorado.

General Electric – GE has invested in a Cadmium Tellurium Startup Prime Solar which is ramping up production.Note Cd-Te is the same technology which is used by First Solar.GE has said that it has managed to attain 15% efficiency on commercial glass.Don’t know how much of it is true since First Solar only manages around 12% efficiency despite around 10 years of dedicated R&D.However if GE can even manage to get near to that level then it would surely give First Solar a run for its money.GE has also tied up with Japanese Solar Frontier to market its CIGs based modules

TSMC- Stion – TSMC recently bought a 21% equity stake in CIGs startup Stion for $50 million.The partnership will involve TSMC licensing Stion’s technology and doing  joint research on further enhancing the technology.Stion has claimed that it has achieved a >13% efficiency and plans to increase it to 15% in the near future.TSMC has been quietly making further investments to build a large capacity in Taiwan using this technology.It recently bought module making equipment from another Taiwanese company and has also invested a substantial amount in constructing buildings and facilities for the new CIGs fab.TSMC has earlier invested in c-Si through a equity stake in Motech.

Uni Solar – After First Solar,Energy Conversion Devices seemed the mostly likely viable company in Thin Film Technology.After a few quarters of profits in 2008,the company went into the red as its flexible a-Si modules failed to cut costs as fast as others.It has been shutting factories in the US and shifting to low cost locations.Still one of the biggest independent Thin Film Producers.Seems more likely that it will be bought out then survive independently.

Trony Solar – Trony Solar is the largest Solar Thin Film Producer in China and uses a-Si Technology to producer Solar Panels used mostly in Off-Grid Applications.The company uses its own custom made equipment and manages to get decent margins for its products.The company recently listed on the HK Stock Exchange.

Astronergy – Astronergy is a producer of high-efficiency thin film PV modules in mainland China, and also makes monocrystalline and polycrystalline PV modules.It is a part of the Chint Group which is one of the largest electronics suppliers in China.The company used equipment from the Oerlikon Group and produces thin film amorphous solar panels in the range of 110-140 Watts.

Kaneka – This Japanese manufacturer is present in a number of product lines like chemicals, functional and expandable plastic products, foodstuffs, life science products and synthetic fibers as well as solar energy modules. Kaneka researches, develops and manufactures its own solar panels leveraging our advanced materials knowledge and our core competency as a chemical manufacturer for over 60 years.The company started research in 1980 on a-Si and has a HYBRID PV Module which it sells globally.The company has expanded production to 150 MW a year at Toyooka Factory from 20 MW a year.Kaneka‘s HYBRID solar panel has a tandem structure.Its dual-layer structure of microcrystalline and amorphous silicon can capture from short to long wavelengths of the light spectrum

If you are interested read about the different prices and efficiencies of various types of solar panels.


Abhishek Shah

One Response so far | Have Your Say!

  1. James Konikson

    Do you do International instillations in the middle east.
    I have a large contract if you are interested.

    Please reply!