Living up to its name, First Solar has been leading the industry for quite some time. Using cadmium telluride in its manufacturing process has allowed for the production of thin film PV modules at some of the cheapest rates on the market as low as $0.74 per watt. It was the first to reduce manufacturing cost to $1 in 2009, ranked sixth in Fast Company's 2010 list of the world's 50 most innovative companies and first on Forbe's list of America's 25 fastest-growing technology companies in 2011.
In an effort to survive in a Darwinian market, due to a glut of supplies on the market coming from China, the company has made moves to consolidate certain research and development activities to avoid a similar fate of Solyndra. Today, the world's biggest maker of thin-film solar panels is working on a number of large-scale projects in the western U.S., and has installed over 3.8 GW of modules in both rooftop and ground-mount applications worldwide.