By John Parnell
In mid-2017 Arizona’s First Solar was set up for a tricky 2018. It was overhauling its manufacturing facilities, juggling inventory, wary of the impact of Trump’s planned trade duties on all imports of solar panels and facing even stiffer competition from China.
As the months rolled on and 2018 arrived, things seemed to get better and better for the firm.
As opposed to the overwhelming majority of its competition, First Solar’s panels are based not on silicon but on thin-film technology. Historically its products have been about one third the size of standard silicon modules. That meant the forest of racking to suspend them on needed to be tailored and the labor involved in clamping and connecting them in position was greater.
The shift to a larger format module was revealed in April 2016 and the first working panel rolled off the production line in Malaysia in December 2017. Fast-forward one year and the first substantial project using the new Series 6 modules in under construction. The company was able to continue finding a market for the smaller Series 4 products and it is theoretically sold out of Series 6, even as it continues to add new production lines.
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