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First Solar Buys RayTracker to Make Panels Follow Sun

First Solar Inc., the world’s biggest maker of thin-film solar modules, bought closely held RayTracker Inc. for an undisclosed amount to expand in sun-tracking technology.

First Solar will assimilate RayTracker’s nine employees and clients with the purchase, the Tempe, Arizona-based company said today in a statement. Tracking systems let solar panels follow the sun’s movements, increasing output from solar panels.

Tracking technology has been too costly for thin-film panels because they convert less sunlight into electricity than polysilicon-based modules. For this to work for First Solar, they must create higher efficiency panels and reduce the cost and maintenance of tracking systems, said Daniel Ries, an analyst at Collins Stewart in New York.

“This is really unexpected news from First Solar and seems like a positive development,” said Ries, who has a “buy” rating on the shares and owns none. “Tracking systems were not ideal for First Solar, so this solution must have the potential to change the equation.”

First Solar is evaluating RayTracker’s systems and hasn’t yet decided whether to use the systems with its thin-film modules for utility-scale projects, said Ted Meyer, a First Solar spokesman.

“We are currently testing RayTracker technology in the field,” Meyer said in an e-mailed response to questions. “First Solar is still evaluating the effectiveness of tracking and other advanced technologies.”

First Solar declined 47 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $134.06 at 10:50 a.m. in Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading. Its shares have slipped 4.8 percent in the past year. RayTracker is based in Pasadena, California.

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