What happened 

Shares of First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) went up as much as 19.6% today after the solar leader reported first-quarter earnings results. At 1:20 p.m. EDT, the stock was still up 13.2% and holding gains for the day. 

So what

Revenue rose 1.8% to $891.8 million in the quarter and net income plunged from $195.6 million a year ago to $9.1 million, or $0.09 per share. But results easily beat analyst estimates of $667.8 million in revenue and a loss of $0.13 per share. 

First Solar utility scale solar farm.

Image source: First Solar.

What really got investors excited was management's increased 2017 revenue guidance by $50 million, to $2.85 billion to $2.95 billion, and non-GAAP earnings-per-share guidance by a quarter, to $0.25 to $0.75. Higher sales of solar system components and more robust sale prices for projects caused the results to surpass expectations.

Now what

2017 was predicted to be a very bad year for solar companies, which is why First Solar's management is taking this time to upgrade its equipment from Series 4 modules to Series 6. And now demand for both Series 4 modules in the short term and Series 6 modules in the long term may be higher than anyone anticipated. With such negative sentiment for solar stocks coming into 2017, this recovery may be just the beginning. 

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.