A noteworthy event in the US solar industry during the first half of this September was the agreement made between First Solar and Kinect Solar to sell the former’s thin-film PV modules to customers seeking distributed generation (DG) solutions. The deal, which was announced on September 6, allows EPC firm Kinect Solar to provide First Solar’s high-performance and top-selling Series 6 modules in the DG market. First Solar is a major PV module manufacturer in the US and the only solar company in the world with a production capacity for thin-film products in the gigawatt scale. The deal represents an initial foray into the DG market as well as an expansion of the business portfolio for the company.
The global installed capacity of PV systems based on First Solar’s CdTe thin-film technology has already reached 25GW. To further increase the visibility of its products, First Solar will be working with channel distributors and EPC firms including Kinect Solar, Graybar, and WESCO Distribution to establish a presence in the DG market.
Customers of the DG markets include residential communities and businesses that want efficiency, flexibility, and sustainability with respect to their electricity generation and consumption. They now stand to benefit from First Solar’s recent initiative. Through the above-mentioned distributors, they can purchase the Series 6 modules that use CdTe thin-film cells and offer a high output of 420-445W. Since DG project require a high degree of specialization, the distributors also tend to be EPC firms that can adjust the design of the PV system and the project layout to maximize the operational efficiency of the whole project for their clients. First Solar, in turn, also benefits from the additional demand coming from a growing segment of the solar market.
According to First Solar’s latest earnings report, the COVID-19 pandemic has not significantly affected the company’s financial performance. However, the tone of the company’s future guidance is very cautious because the severity and duration of the pandemic has created a lot of uncertainties in the energy and capital markets.
While First Solar expands its business portfolio, it is also streamlining its corporate structure. The company announced on August 6 that it will be selling its operation and maintenance (O&M) business to NovaSource Power Services. The buyer is a Canadian company that specializes in the O&M of PV power plants. The deal, the value of which has yet to be disclosed, is scheduled for completion by this fourth quarter.
PV product manufacturers have their own operational strategies. First Solar has chosen to increase sales by partnering up with EPC firms and channel distributors. In contrast, Tesla’s solar business is cutting costs by ending its relationships with distributors and reducing its workforce. In 2017, Tesla abandoned door-to-door sales of its PV products. Then in June of 2018, it terminated its partnership with Home Depot, a major US suppliers of home renovation products and building materials. With the end of this collaboration, Tesla’s rooftop PV systems are no longer being promoted at Home Depot’s 800 locations across North America since 2019. It remains to be seen as to which strategy, either First Solar’s or Tesla’s, will be successful over the long term.
(News source: TechNews. Photo credit: First Solar.)