First Solar Inc

Tempe, Arizona, United States (U.S.A.)www.firstsolar.com
Invested through
  • Triodos Pioneer Impact Fund
Asset ClassesListed equity
Impact strategyImpact Equities and Bonds
Bloomberg tickerFSLR US
ISIN codeUS3364331070
Industry groupSemiconductors & Semiconductor Equipment
Aligned with SDGs

First Solar manufactures solar panels (>80% of revenues), and also provides O&M (operation and maintenance) services for system owners that use solar modules, as well as EPC services, e.g. developing solar power parks.

The company is specialized in thin film solar panel technology. Compared to monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels, thin film panels are cheaper to produce and perform best in various types of weather conditions, i.e. low light conditions, partial shading and extreme heat.

Founded in 1990, First Solar has manufacturing facilities in the US, Vietnam and Malaysia. The company currently has 8 GW (gigawatt) in nameplate manufacturing capacity but is expected to double this to 16 GW by 2024 via the construction of new facilities in India and Ohio (US) and via optimization initiatives at existing facilities.

Investment rationale

Renewable energy plays a crucial role in combating climate change and transitioning to a low carbon economy. In the US, First Solar’s biggest market, electricity production contributes to 25% of total greenhouse gas emissions (2019 data), with 62% of the country’s electricity coming from burning fossil fuels, mostly coal and natural gas (EPA, 2021).

First Solar is one of the leaders in the transition from fossil towards renewable energy. Its solar panels have a direct impact on the reduction of CO2 and GHG emissions from energy generation and on the increased use of renewable energy. The energy payback time (i.e. the amount of time a system must operate to recover the energy required to produce it) can be less than 6 months.

The company is committed to sustainable solar panel manufacturing, responsible construction practices and minimizing the environmental impact of its products across the life cycle. This ranges from raw material sourcing to end-of-life recycling, reusing 90% of the glass in new glass products and over 90% of the semiconductor material in new panels. As a result of its specialized manufacturing process, the carbon footprint of First Solar's modules is a fraction of the carbon footprint of conventional energy sources, displacing up to 90% of greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants.