An Impressive Start to 2018 for First Solar

Although the solar panel tariff has only been in effect for a few short months, one of the big benefactors so far from it seems to be Tempe, Arizona based First Solar Corporation.


President Trump had a clear goal in mind when he was running for office that he would end what he felt were unfair trade practices that were hurting American businesses. Many of these thoughts were directly aimed at Chinese businesses in particular. It did however; catch everyone a little by surprise when the first tariffs to come out of President Trump’s ‘make America great again’ stance had to do with imports of panels into America. After just a few months all signs indicate that the tariff imposed on imported solar panels is working as the president had hoped. 

The solar panel tariff which went into effect in early February of 2018 was largely put into place to deter what American solar panel manufacturers described as Chinese solar panel manufacturers ‘dumping’ their solar panels in the USA at far below market value prices. This created an unfair competitive sales environment for American based solar panel manufacturers. The tariffs start at 30% in the first year and then graduate down to 15% in the last of its 4-year duration. 

Although the tariff has only been in effect for a few short months, one of the big benefactors so far from it seems to be Tempe, Arizona based First Solar Corporation.  

About First Solar 

The company has over 6000 employees and was founded in 1999. First Solar manufactures and markets solar panels that use ‘cadmium telluride’ film as a semiconductor. They have been successful despite the fact that most of their competitors use slightly less costly silicon based photovoltaic solar panels. 

First Solar sells solar panels to both individuals and as part of large-scale PV systems solutions. The latter concentrates on utility-scale PV power plants and they have installed them all across the USA and in 12 different foreign countries. First Solar is consistently rated among the nation’s most innovative technology companies and among the world’s top solar contractors. 

First Solar 2018 First Quarter Earnings 

First Solar boasted net sales of almost 3 billion dollars in 2017 and a 2017 fourth quarter net earnings of 339 million dollars. Already in 2018 First Solar reported first quarter net earnings of some 567 million dollars. That is a jump of 228 million dollars of net revenue in the first quarter alone. Company CEO Mark Widmer cited strong domestic and international demands for First Solar’s products as the reason for its revenue increase. 

It’s Not Just About Earnings Either 

When President Trump made the decision to impose tariffs on imported solar panels it was not just about improving the bottom line of America’s solar panel manufacturers either. It was also about stimulating American made solar panel sales and in turn creating more jobs. That part of the deal seems to be working so far also. 

First Solar has announced plans to build a new 1.2 gigawatt (GW) solar module manufacturing facility outside of Perrysburg, Ohio. The plant will focus on building the company’s most in demand photovoltaic solar cell, the Series 6 solar panel. Once finished the plant is expected to employ over 500 people. 

Other Positive signs of American Solar panel Manufacturing Growth 

First Solar is not the only American solar panel manufacturer to make headlines either as far as job growth goes and increased sales potential. The solar panel tariff is also thought to have spearheaded Chinese solar panel manufacturer JinkoSolar’s new Florida plant construction and Sun Power’s acquisition of SolarWorld Americas. Both moves should create new jobs in the solar panel manufacturing industry and are likely to help increase sales of American made solar panels. 

The Outlook for First Solar and Other US Solar panel Manufacturers is as Bright as Their Solar Panels 

It’s hard to say if President Trump and the other government officials who thought the solar panel tariff was a good thing expected positive results this quickly for American solar panel producing companies like First Solar. It also must be noted that a sample size of only a few months can be skewed by such things as big project additions (which first solar has taken on) and other company spending factors. But it’s also very hard not to feel extremely positive about the direction that First Solar and other American Solar panel manufacturers seem to be headed in as we near the half-way point of fiscal 2018. 




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