Back in February, we learned that First Solar's (NASDAQ:FSLR) margins would get pinched a bit by the ramp-up of its new Malaysia facilities. Two quarters later, that pinch turned out to be almost imperceptible.

Gross margin for the second quarter came in at 54%, off just a hair from the year-end "steady state" level. Offsetting the manufacturing costs were euro strength versus the dollar, throughput enhancements, and lower material costs.

There's nothing novel about those first two items, but lower material costs? That's pretty remarkable for just about any industry these days, let alone the polysilicon-poor solar business. Of course, unlike Suntech Power (NYSE:STP) and Trina Solar (NYSE:TSL), First Solar doesn't use any poly, so it's having an easier time than most when it comes to supply chain management.

Revenue and earnings growth was characteristically explosive this quarter, with 36% and 49% sequential growth on the top and bottom line, respectively. Again, that's sequential, rather than a year-over-year comparison.

Looking at the various end markets for First Solar products, Germany is still a strong place to be, but subsidy reductions are pointing to a shift away from ground-mounted installations and toward rooftop installations. That, or German system integrators will peddle their wares outside of the country.

Spain, as mentioned a few weeks back, also appears to be shifting to rooftop. Rumors regarding more generous tariff rates this week sent companies like Yingli Green Energy (NYSE:YGE) and Canadian Solar (NASDAQ:CSIQ) flying on Tuesday, but whatever happens there, First Solar isn't particularly affected. The company characterizes its near-term exposure as "limited."

Just as with SunPower (NASDAQ:SPWR), First Solar has a sunny outlook toward Italy and France. The firms diverge on Japan, however, with the latter company admitting that it hasn't really honed in on the Asian nation.

Finally, things are progressing relatively well here at home, considering the current regulatory logjam in Congress. First Solar has unveiled some projects out west, and its domestic deals will continue to be driven by state Renewable Portfolio Standards until the federal tax credit situation gets resolved.

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Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy believes that sunlight is the best disinfectant.