First Solar delivers on earnings, margins, falls short on revenue

US-based thin-film PV manufacturer First Solar says it has raised its expectations for 2023 as its order backlog continues to grow.

From pv magazine USA

First Solar has announced its third-quarter earnings for 2023, posting a miss on revenues but beating expectations on earnings per share.

The manufacturer of cadmium telluride thin-film solar modules recorded $801 million of revenue, falling short of expectations of $892 million. It reported an earnings per share of $2.50, exceeding expectations by 22.5%. In the same quarter last year, First Solar delivered a loss per share of $0.46 and $629 million in sales, showing a strong move toward profitability and sustained revenue growth.

The company shipped 2.7 GW of solar module orders in the third quarter. Its backlog of orders has reached 82 GW, and year-to-date orders have reached 28 GW.

First Solar delivered gross margins that were significantly higher than Wall Street expectations. Gross margins came in at 47%, higher than the consensus of 39%. Gross margins improved based on lower sales freight costs, higher module average sales prices, and a higher volume of US-produced modules, which make them eligible for the 45x tax credit under the US Inflation Reduction Act.

“We believe the future belongs to thin film,” said CEO Mark Widmar on the company’s earnings call.

First Solar continues to open more manufacturing capacity in the United States and abroad to meet the growing backlog of orders booked through the near- and mid-term. It produced 2.5 GW of Series 6 modules in the third quarter. Its third Ohio factory is operating a Series 7 manufacturing line, producing 15,000 modules per day. Cumulatively, the company’s Series 7 module production in the U.S. has surpassed 1 GW.

First Solar is targeting 25 GW of global manufacturing capacity by 2026. It has also begun producing bifacial thin-film modules, which it said is a first for the industry.

“The technology features an innovative, transparent back contact pioneered by First Solar’s research and development team, which, in addition to enabling bifacial energy gain, allows infrared wavelengths of light pass through rather than be absorbed as heat and is expected to lower the operational temperature of the bifacial module and result in higher specific energy yield,” said Widmar.

The company secured an average per watt sales price of $0.296 in the third quarter.

“We expect to qualify for an IRA credit of approximately $0.17 per watt for each module produced in the U.S. and sold to a third party, which is recognized as a reduction to cost of sales in the period of sale,” said Alexander Bradley, chief financial officer of First Solar. “During the third quarter, we recognized $205 million of such credits compared to $155 million in the second quarter.”

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