SAN JOSE, Calif. Solar energy remains hot. First Solar Inc., a supplier of solar modules, on Friday (June 30) said that it plans to make an initial public offering (IPO) of its common stock.
The IPO is valued at $250 million, according to First Solar (Phoenix) in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The company manufactures solar modules using a proprietary thin-film semiconductor technology.
The company's net sales grew from $3.2 million in 2003 to $48.1 million in 2005, according to a filing. But it has also incurred a net loss of $28.0 million in 2003, $16.8 million in 2004, $6.5 million in 2005 and $5.9 million in the first quarter of 2006, according to a company filing. In total, it had an accumulated deficit of $155.3 million at April 1, 2006.
First Solar recently entered into long-term solar module supply contracts with six European project developers and system integrators, which is expected to generate approximately $1.4 billion in sales from 2006 to 2011.
In 2005, the company claimed that its average manufacturing costs were $1.59 per Watt, which is less than those of traditional crystalline silicon solar module manufacturers.
"Our manufacturing process transforms an inexpensive 2-ft x 4-ft (60-cm x 120-cm) sheet of glass into a complete solar module in less than three hours, using approximately 1 percent of the semiconductor material used to produce traditional crystalline silicon solar modules," according to the company's filing.
At the same time, First Solar has big plans. "In order to satisfy our contractual requirements and address additional market demand, we are expanding our manufacturing capacity from the existing 25-MW at our Ohio plant to an aggregate capacity of 175-MW by the second half of 2007," according to the filing.
"We are in the process of adding two production lines to the[Ohio Expansion], which we expect will increase our annual manufacturing capacity to 75-MW by August 2006 and establish First Solar as the largest thin film solar module manufacturer in the world," according to the firm.
"We are also building a four line 100-MW manufacturing plant in Germany. After our German Plant reaches full capacity, estimated for the second half of 2007, we will have an annual manufacturing capacity of 175-MW. We are also in the planning stage for a new manufacturing plant in Asia," it said.
Not long ago, solar energy was considered a niche market. Now, solar-cell vendors are scrambling to expand their capacities to meet huge demand from homes and businesses worldwide. Companies that have recently announced new and massive solar-cell production plants include Energy Conversion Devices, Evergreen Solar, Sharp, SunPower and Suntech.
Last week a startup originally funded by Google Inc. announced a $100 million financing package and set plans to build what the company claims as the world's largest solar-cell manufacturing facility in California.
Presently in pilot production in its Palo Alto, Calif.-based facility, the solar-cell startup, Nanosolar, has started ordering volume production equipment for use in a factory said to have a total annual cell output of 430-MW once fully built out, or approximately 200 million cells per year.
Indeed, solar is here today, but the technology is at about three times the cost of conventionally generated electricity However, thanks to advances in conventional and thin-film technologies, some believe that the cost of solar will be on par with that of conventional electricity within 10 years.