Though less “efficient” in their ability to transform sunlight into electricity than crystalline silicon photovoltaic (PV) cells, thin-film panels are dramatically cheaper to produce. As a result, First Solar–aka the “Intel of solar”–has been pumping out cadmium-telluride panels at a radically low $1.14 per watt. Thin film rivals like San Jose’s Nanosolar are hot on First Solar’s tail, with claims that it can get to 99¢ per watt. But with plans to be producing at gigawatt scale by year end and a market cap of around $11 billion, First Solar has momentum on its side.
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