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Published: Thursday, 4/30/2009

First Solar profits triple; CEO Ahearn to exit post

First Solar Inc., the nation s largest solar panel maker, reported yesterday that first-quarter profits more than tripled as the company begun in Toledo has inked numerous new power projects and cut its production costs.

The Tempe, Ariz., company, with its only North America panel-making plant in Perrysburg Township, said it had a profit of $165 million, or $1.99 a share, in the first quarter, compared with $47 million, or 57 cents a share, for the same period last year. Sales for the quarter were $418 million, up from $197 million a year ago.

The firm said it reached two key production milestones this year. It built a total of 1 gigawatt of photovoltaic modules, and its manufacturing costs have dropped below $1 per watt. It also received orders for 479 megawatts of solar around the world.

Michael Ahearn said he will step down as chief executive and the company board had begun an external search to replace him. He will continue to serve as executive chairman and focus on developing public policies to help governments create low-carbon economies.

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