First Solar Inc. (FSLR) Chairman Mike Ahearn has found the best way to make money from photovoltaics is to sell whole power plants to Warren Buffett and NextEra Energy Inc. (NEE) instead of competing with China on panel sales.
The biggest U.S. solar company is forecast to report the only profit in the second quarter among the 17 companies in the BI Global Large Solar index, according to estimates collected by Bloomberg. The rest, led by Suntech Power Holdings Co. (STP) of China, are predicted to have losses.
Suntech and the other Chinese manufacturers that dominate the industry have focused almost exclusively on panel sales, exposing themselves to the brunt of a 47 percent plunge in prices in the past year. Ahearn has insulated First Solar by cutting production and expanding sales of the PV power plants, said Sanjay Shrestha, an analyst at Lazard Capital Markets. Buffett and NextEra are among the company’s best customer