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First Solar strikes Japanese reseller deal, investing $100M in country

  • Leading Japanese oil refiner/seller JX Nippon has agreed to distribute high-efficiency First Solar (FSLR -0.2%) solar modules through April 2015. As part of the deal, First Solar will develop and manufacture technology it obtained through its April acquisition of TetraSun.
  • Whereas First Solar has historically focused on offering thin-film solar modules for utility-scale projects - they tend to have lower efficiencies than silicon alternatives, but are also cheaper - TetraSun has developed silicon cells with very high efficiencies. That could make them well-suited for Japan, a high-margin solar market where space for residential/commercial deployments is often at a premium.
  • First Solar has also announced it's investing $100M to build Japanese solar plants in partnership with local firms.
  • Thanks to rapid growth (aided by generous subsidies) and high margins, the Japanese market has already been a boon to many Chinese solar firms. Solarbuzz estimates Japan's cumulative solar installations topped 10.5GW by the end of August, up ~50% just from the end of 2012.
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