First Solar reversed its recent string of quarterly losses in the third quarter of 2019, with lower revenues from its U.S. projects business offset by growing sales and margins for its new Series 6 larger-format solar panels.
First Solar also announced Thursday that it has retaken the crown of largest solar panel manufacturer in the U.S., and thus the Western Hemisphere, with the early opening of its second factory in Ohio. Start of production at the Perrysburg factory three months ahead of schedule brings the company’s U.S. Series 6 manufacturing capacity to 1.9 gigawatts DC, and its global Series 6 capacity to 5.4 gigawatts.
First Solar has faced challenges on various fronts in recent quarters, including increases in operating costs. Last month, it announced it was transitioning away from its internal engineering, procurement and contracting model in the U.S. and will instead rely on partners to build projects, with about 100 employees to leave the company as a result.
But the quarter’s turn to profitability marks a turnaround for the thin-film solar PV market leader. First Solar reported third-quarter net income of $30.6 million on revenues of $547 million, compared to a loss of $18.5 million on net sales of $585 million in the second quarter. And the Arizona-based company continues to grow its module business, with third-quarter bookings at 5.4 gigawatts, up from the second quarter’s 4.3 gigawatts and the first quarter’s 2.3 gigawatts.
“The third quarter represented our strongest quarter of the year in terms of third-party module sales,” CEO Mark Widmar said during Thursday’s earnings call. Total expected shipments and bookings for the year grew by 1.1 gigawatts to stand at 12.4 gigawatts as of late October.
First Solar offered an update on its progress toward its target to cut its Series 6 production costs by 30 percent over the course of 2019. From July to October, megawatts produced rose 8 percent while capacity utilization rose 6 percentage points to hit 100 percent, Widmer said.
Still, the company is facing “near-term headwinds” related to retooling and ramping up production that have led to setbacks in hitting its targets.
This would represent 25 percent growth compared to last year’s 10.6 gigawatts, or the second biggest year of all time.
The company maintained its previous 2019 full-year guidance of $3.7 billion to $3.9 billion in revenue and $2.25 to $2.75 in earnings per share, and year-end net cash guidance of $1.7 billion to $1.9 billion. But it increased its full-year operating income guidance and reduced its operating expense guidance, based on shifts in production start-up costs and other factors.
Source: Greentech Media