First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR), already the market leader in thin-film solar modules, has expansion plans that will see it increase its manufacturing capacity over the next two years, further separating itself from its competition.
The U.S.-based company has announced it will be adding manufacturing plants in the United States, Vietnam, France, Germany, and Malaysia. Through these expansions, analysts at IMS Research project the company will increase its annual manufacturing output to a whopping 3-gigawatts.
Basic economics says supply is worthless without consumer demand. And, it appears that First Solar has picked the perfect time to increase its operations. In its latest analysis, IMS Research estimates the utility-scale photovoltaic solar market will increase five-times faster than the rest of the solar industry next year.
First Solar specializes in utility-scale projects. In 2009 it was contracted to build the largest thin film solar plant in the United States, and earlier this year it was hired to construct the world’s largest solar plant in China.
IMS Research also highlights it will be hard for First Solar’s thin-film competitors to match its output as a result of markets like Germany drying up. Despite battling a host of motivated competitors, First Solar has ascended to the throne of the world thin film solar industry.
This rise has been driven particularly by the company’s innovation and ability to continually reduce the costs of its solar cells. In the second quarter of 2010, First Solar achieved an industry record low of US$0.74 per watt.
After a year of slight contraction, where First Solar saw its market share drop from 10% to 8%, IMS Research predicts the thin-film company will blast on to the scene in 2011. IMS PV Research Analyst Sam Wilkinson states, “Whilst much of the industry has indicated uncertainty and a possible reduction in demand in 2011 with Germany’s small commercial segment likely to decrease the most in MW terms, First Solar is expecting an increase in demand for its products and a need to accelerate capacity expansions.”