What: Shares of solar giant First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) jumped as much as 15% in early trading today after it reported earnings. Shares settled in at an 11% gain by midday on Wall Street.

So what: Third-quarter sales reached $1.27 billion and net income was $346.2 million, or $3.38 per share. Analysts were way behind the company, only expecting $1.11 billion in revenue and $1.55 per share in earnings.  

Results were helped by a $70 million favorable adjustment to the company's panel collection and recycling cost estimates, so that's worth keeping in mind. But even without that, results would have crushed estimates.

To top it off, management said that full-year gross margin will be 24% to 25% and earnings will be $4.30 to $4.50 per share, both big increases from previous guidance.

Now what: First Solar is seeing the benefits from investments it's made in technology over the past few years. Its low installations costs are now married with panels that are at or better than most of the competition, and that results in project wins and high margins. With shares still only trading at 13 times the midpoint of this year's estimates, I think there's a lot of run room for the company's future growth, especially considering technology improvements that are still in the pipeline.

Travis Hoium owns shares of First Solar. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.