First Solar: 1 billion watts served

Solar cell and panel manufacturer proclaims that for the first time it has made one gigawatt's worth of modules in a single year.

As of July 2009, First Solar has four manufacturing plants in Malaysia, as well as a North American plant in Perrysburg Township, Ohio. First Solar

First Solar has produced and shipped 1 gigawatt's worth of photovoltaic solar systems for 2009, the company announced Wednesday.

Hitting the gigawatt mark--the equivalent of 1,000 megawatts or 1 billion watts--is significant as it shows a drastic rise in production and consumer interest. First Solar, which makes cadmium telluride solar cells and panels, produced only about 75 megawatts in 2007, and between 420 megawatts and 460 megawatts in 2008, according to the company's own statistics.

But the leap shouldn't be a surprise: the solar company has been signing massive deals with municipalities over the last year. In March, First Solar announced that it had acquired the rights to complete about 1,300 megawatts worth of utility-scale projects that its rival OptiSolar was unable to finish. Then in August, First Solar signed a deal with Southern California Edison to supply solar modules for a 250-megawatt solar power installation for Desert Center in Riverside County and a 300-megawatt installation in San Bernardino County.

There is promise of more to come. In September, First Solar announced that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with China to partner on a massive, 2,000-megawatt power plant in Ordos City, Inner Mongolia. While the entire project is not scheduled to be completed until 2019, 1,000 megawatts are to be installed by 2014.

First Solar's increased volume may also be having an effect on its bottom line. The company announced earlier this year that it had broken the "the $1 per watt barrier" for manufacturing costs.

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