First Solar's Malaysian fab to begin Series 5 module assembly


U.S. thin film solar module producer First Solar has announced that its Malaysian production facility will begin assembling its Series 5 PV modules via a new assembly line installed at the fab.

The reallocation of capacity at the Kulim plant brings to an end the production of First Solar’s TetraSun crystalline silicon solar panels; a move that First Solar says will lead to impairment and related charges of approximately $90 to $110 million. As a result, however, First Solar expects its operating expenses for the year to reduce by around $2-$4 million, and a further $8-$10 million annually going forward.

This shift is part of First Solar’s long-term business plan, which involves greater focus on maximizing its core technology – thin film CdTe modules. "Over the past two years, execution of our CdTe technology roadmap has positioned the product as the industry leader for utility-scale solar, as well as established a promising path into the future," said First Solar COO Tymen de Jong.

The company’s Series 5 module is viewed as a ‘game-changing’ product, as is the Series 6 module, which is still in concept development. "These modules require the full attention of our manufacturing operations," added de Jong.

The Malaysian fab will be fully operational by early 2017, by which time all of the previously assigned lines for the TetraSun modules will be producing Series 5.

First Solar added that the TetraSun technology served a purpose for space-constrained rooftops as "a hedge against CdTe technology competitiveness and challenges", de Jong explained, but as the CdTe technology roadmap has progressed – leading to record 22.1% cell efficiency and higher energy yield, "that hedge is no longer needed."