First Solar Q2 revenues soar on three project sales

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U.S. thin film producer and project developer First Solar executed the sale of its Silver State South PV power plant project along with majority interest sale in the North Star and Lost Hills-Blackwell projects in Q2, 2015. On the back of the sales the company achieved revenues of $896 million for the quarter, delivering a GAAP earnings per share of $0.93.

First Solar has also been able to increase its cash and marketable securities position in the quarter, boasting $1.8 billion by quarter’s end, a gain of $291 million. Interestingly, First Solar’s short term revenues do not appear to have been adversely affected by the passing down or retaining larger stakes, as a result of its joint 8point3 Energy Partners yieldco. By contrast, SunPower has seen its revenues decline significantly in the same period, a result of its comparatively smaller project pipeline.

In terms of capacity, First Solar brought in 537 MW of new bookings in Q2, with 2015 bookings now totaling 1.4 GW. First Solar reports it is sold out for the remainder of 2015. The company shipped 1.3 GW in the first six months of the year.

Besides projects, the Arizona-based company pointed to its aperture efficiency achievement of 18.6%, with its CdTe thin film technology, in the quarter – an achievement it says will increase its competitiveness against crystalline silicon suppliers.

“Our new module record demonstrates our ability to scale our research cell technologies to full production form factor and is indicative of future production capability we will be deploying in the coming few years,” said First Solar CEO James Hughes in the Q2 earnings call. “With this latest achievement, we’re clearly demonstrating that our CdTe technology is both a high efficiency and low cost offering.” Hughes added that the company forecasts its module efficiency to continue to “grow dramatically” through to 2017.

In scale production, First Solar reports an average efficiency in Q2 of 15.4%, with a lead line efficiency of 16.2%. The growth of conversion efficiency in production is expected to slow for the remainder of 2015, the company reports, as production expansion and utilization becomes the focus for production teams.

In terms of particular projects, CEO Hughes highlighted the 100 MW Playa project in the U.S. as a highlight, with the project to be completed and sold in 2016. Outside of the U.S., the company pointed to the first phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park project, with a capacity of 200 MW, which it will supply and execute for ACWA Power. The project captured international solar headlines for its astoundingly low PPA price of $0.0584/kWh over 25 years, earlier this year. In an interview with pv magazine, BNEF founder Michael Liebreich described the prices as "the starting gun for something pretty substantial," in the region.

Staying international, First Solar highlighted a 26 MW (AC) power plant in Honduras that is nearing construction, with Hughes noting that Central America is emerging as a strong future market.

“Elsewhere, we added additional bookings in other international locations such as India, Turkey and Japan,” said Hughes. 50% of First Solar’s “late stage opportunities,” which the company defines as having more than a 50% likelihood of realization, are outside of the U.S.

In total, First Solar reports potential bookings of 16.7 GW, up 2.7 GW Q/Q, of which 3 GW are considered “late stage.”