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First Solar aiming at $1 billion in revenue this year

Despite experts saying a fall is imminent, First Solar continues to climb.

First Solar exceeded expectations once again in its most recent quarter and told investors that revenue for 2008 would likely come in at $975 million to $1.05 billion, higher than the $900 million to $950 million range provided earlier.

The company--which specializes in cadmium telluride solar cells--reported revenue of $196.9 million for the first three months of the year, more than double the $66.9 million in revenue garnered in the first quarter of 2007. Net income went to $46.6 million, or 57 cents a share, well above the $5 million for the first quarter of 2007.

Production for the year will also climb to between 420 megawatts and 460 megawatts, higher than the earlier estimates of 400 to 430 megawatts. The increase in production is being facilitated by new factories going up around the world.

The company's stock this morning is trading at $294 a share. The company went public for $20 a share in November 2006. A year ago, we dubbed First Solar the Google of solar because of its rapid, yet steady growth. The term prompted self-described financial experts to whine and ring their hands. The stock was at $200 at the time. Instead, First Solar weathered the stock market downturn and is now 50 percent higher than it was then. Revenue and profits have continued to climb quarterly on year-to-year comparisons. Granted, it's trading at a high price-to-earnings ratio, but the price is what it is.

Cadmium telluride solar cells aren't as efficient as silicon ones, but they are cheaper. The company has been tinkering with the technology and manufacturing techniques for decades. Although it only went public in 2006, the company's founders began working on cadmium telluride solar cells in the mid-'80s. And, unlike CIGS, cadmium telluride solar cells are in the market.

Still, detractors assert that the company could be hurt by limited supplies of raw materials in the future. Additionally, other manufacturers are finally entering the market for cadmium telluride cells. Calyxo, a subsidiary of Germany's Q-Cells, is one of the more notable competitors.