First Solar is on the minds of most everyone in the solar industry.

Vinod Khosla speaks of First Solar's performance in his recent piece in GTM.  The CEO of CIGS PV vendor MiaSolé, Joseph Laia, has a First Solar panel in a nearby office as a bit of competitive inspiration.  The CEO of Abound Solar, Tom Tiller and Solexant's CEO, Damoder Reddy, (both working with CdTe) also have First Solar in mind as a target.  Even stealthy firms like Alta Devices have to keep abreast of where First Solar is headed.

And no wonder -- the First Solar roadmap for module efficiency, capex, throughput and even Energy Payback Time are aggressive and the benchmarks against which most solar firms will have to hold themselves.  (First Solar does have a few doubters such as the author of "Why I'm Short First Solar."

First Solar's Rafi Garabedian, Director of Disruptive Technologies, spoke at a recent OIDA event in Santa Clara, California and reviewed the First Solar roadmap out to 2014.  Here are some of the numbers:

  • 2014 roadmap goal of 52 cents per watt at the panel level -- accomplished through efficiency gains and improvements in throughput
  • 14% module efficiency in 2014
  • Capex at 65 cents per watt factory capacity. 

Garabedian explained that First Solar sees the solar industry currently in a "transition market" where we are dependent on subsidies and compete against peak power plants.  They believe that if they achieve their roadmap numbers -- we can move from the "transition market" to a "sustainable market" and compete directly with baseload power.

Other numbers from First Solar

  • It takes only 2.5 hours for the factory to go from glass to module
  • 2012 production capacity will be 2 gigawatts  
  • Energy Payback Time (EPBT) is .65 .8 years   (EPBT includes manufacturing and installation).  Garabedian challenged the silicon guys to lower their silicon consumption to keep up with the First Solar EPBT.
  • Q1 conversion efficiency was 11.1 percent, Q1 manufacturing cost was 81 cents per watt, Q1 revenue was $568 million

Garabedian said, "What looks disruptive to a VC might not look disruptive to us."