After a year of nothing but bad news, First Solar
Record setting effort
The National Renewable Energy Lab confirmed that a CdTe module made on production equipment in Ohio recently reached 14.4% total area efficiency. This compares with the company's expectation of 12.7% efficient modules in the fourth quarter and is a huge step closer to the efficiency of standard modules.
First Solar is still far behind industry leader SunPower
I've said that First Solar is falling behind strategically because as module prices fall, the company's lower-efficiency modules lead to higher balance-of-system costs and a dwindling competitive advantage. Chinese firms like LDK Solar
Roadmap going forward
It will be a while until First Solar brings a module near 14.4% efficiency into full-scale production. The company's module efficiency roadmap doesn't reach that level until at least 2014. By then, silicon-based modules will likely also be more efficient, so it's unknown whether First Solar is really catching up or just staying in the game with this new record.
For now, I see this as a slightly positive sight, but if shares continue to bounce higher, I might take the opportunity to move my money into a company with more efficient modules.
Fool contributor Travis Hoium owns shares of First Solar, SunPower, and has sold puts in SunPower. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw.
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