First Solar Seeks More Rooftops as Utility Plants Shrink


Image info: Photographer: Joshua Lott/Bloomberg, A worker installs First Solar Inc. photovoltaic solar panels in Arizona, U.S.

By Christopher Martin

First Solar Inc. (FSLR), the largest U.S. solar-panel maker, is boosting its efforts to install systems at industrial sites and warehouses as utilities demand smaller solar farms.

Pursuing smaller projects and customer-sited systems may increase sales as much as 36 percent over the next three years, Chief Executive Officer Jim Hughes said at an analyst event in New York yesterday.

The company got 65 percent of its 2013 sales from selling large solar farms to utilities, a market that’s slowing in the U.S. as power companies meet state requirements and don’t need to buy more solar energy. Hughes is seeking deals in other regions including Saudi Arabia, India and South America, and also expects higher demand in the U.S. from commercial and industrial rooftops.

“We’re more confident than ever that we can compete for rooftops,” Hughes said in an interview after the event. “Quite possibly it will be our biggest growth segment, but we’re starting from a small base.”

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