First Solar’s Growth Is Due in Part to the Sales Force

Why investors aren’t going green

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What does it take to get people to buy renewable energy? A clean environment isn’t sufficient to generate demand for an otherwise pricey renewable energy product, according to a senior executive at one of the country’s largest solar companies recently interviewed by Forbes.

“As with any new technology, the first step is convincing everyone of the value of it,” said Scott Brown, the president of First Solar, which has more than 10,000 megawatts of solar equipment installed in the U.S., and has been the subject of a lot of press attention this past week.

First Solar’s growth rate in the past couple of years has accelerated significantly as the U.S. government has accelerated its push for clean energy, Brown pointed out.

“The federal government is very forward-looking,” he said in a phone interview.

He pointed to a report the U.S. Energy Department last week that said its renewable energy production increased by 8.8 percent in 2016, and will likely reach 17 gigawatts in 2017, more than doubling it’s last year’s growth.

With its massive installed capacity, First Solar has played a big role in the federal government’s push for renewable energy. The company, which opened its first office in Kansas in 1997, has also been a strong advocate of its technology to the government during hearings in places like Puerto Rico and Arizona.

Brown said the renewable energy push has been good for First Solar. The company’s solar panels have also helped to reduce its production costs, which Brown said have dropped from $2.4 per watt in the years before the solar industry became profitable to $0.8 per watt in the past four years.

First Solar’s growth and success with its technology is due in part to the hard work of its sales force.

“The company’s strength is its sales force,” he said. “We’re an integrated company, and our strength is the company’s strength. We have the people, the passion, the enthusiasm, the experience, the knowledge, the customer base

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