First Solar‘s (NASDAQ:FSLR) Chief Technologist Marcus Beckand and a few other members of his team are leaving the company as the firm focuses on its core technologies in the present downturn.  Mr. Beckand was reported to be leading the development of emerging low cost copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) cells that could potentially lower costs of producing cheaper PV modules, increasing the company’s low cost edge over Chinese competition like Suntech Power (NYSE:STP).
We have a $111 price estimate for First Solar which is more than double its present market price.
Low costs reducing tech edge?
After the departure of CEO Rob Gillette, First Solar has been focusing on reducing expenditures and has put on hold the expansion of manufacturing capacity. According to The Wall Street Journal, quoting inside sources, the reason for the departure of the Chief Technologist was a result of the company tightening spending.  Analysts expected the CIGS technology to push costs lower making solar more competitive with conventional energy sources. The present shakeout in the industry is forcing companies to reduce R&D spending.
It is rumored that the Japanese competitor Solar Frontier KK has already produced a more efficient product using CIGS, according to some analysts.  Several start ups in the U.S. are also developing this new technology including SoloPower Inc. that received $197 million as loan from Department of Energy. Going forward, we expect First Solar to cut R&D costs as it focuses on its own low cost Cd-Te technology.Notes: