Clean-tech companies are always betting on the future. But First Solar is the rare green company that is making a killing right now. The Phoenix-based thin-film solar panel manufacturer, launched with money from Wal-Mart's Walton family, began commercial production of its inexpensive solar modules back in 2002, ahead of most competitors since then, First Solar has gone from strength to strength. It already dominates the emerging thin-film solar industry, and in 2006 the company went public in one of the strongest IPOs yet in the clean-tech sector. Shares that initially went for $20 are now worth almost $300, with no upper limit in sight. While its competitors have struggled with the tricky process of mass-producing thin-film panels, First Solar with factories in Arizona, Germany and eventually Malaysia will soon crack the 1 gigawatt barrier in solar production. "We can deliver at price and we can deliver at volume," says Mike Ahearn, First Solar's CEO. "But there's still room for continuous improvement."
Next Serious Materials