How Low Can It Go?
First Solar was the first panel maker to cross the $1-per-watt threshold, making its energy competitive with power produced by conventional means.
For most of the past decade, the first renewables company to be listed on the S&P 500 had one overriding goal: driving down the cost of solar-power modules until they could compete with traditional power. It has used every strategy at its disposal, from newly patented technologies to overseas mass production to vertical integration at all levels of a project—all while managing to sidestep economic landmines and navigate the shifting policy landscape. The company was the first solar supplier to cross the $1-per-watt mark, putting it roughly on par with conventional power, and cruised to $0.85 per watt by the end of 2009, the lowest cost in the industry. At right, key moments along the way.