First Solar (s FSLR), the thin-film solar darling that has reportedly reached grid parity, or the point where photovoltaic electricity is as cheap as conventional electric power, has hit another milestone this morning: 1 GW of production. That’s the total amount of thin-film solar modules it has produced since it started commercial production back in 2002.
A gigawatt might not seem like a lot over seven years, but the recent ramp-up rate is impressive. First Solar says it took the company six years to produce the first 500 megawatts and just the last eight months to produce the second 500 MW. Even through the recent downturn, First Solar is now powering ahead like a locomotive. Earlier this month the company bought up a coveted 550 MW solar project to supply PG&E (s PCG) with solar power for $400 million from struggling OptiSolar.
Bottom line: First Solar took its years of manufacturing experience to drop the price of solar at a time when the first U.S. utilities have started to plan projects to meet state renewable portfolio standards. First Solar can produce solar modules for less than the $1-per-watt price barrier. Very few solar photovoltaic makers in the U.S. can make that claim. And more and more, utilities will start contracting these projects going forward, particularly if a national renewable portfolio standard gets passed. While we’ve been writing about a lot of companies that are getting knee-capped by the downturn, First Solar appears to be shining through.