New First Solar CEO Brings Government Expertise, Ties to General Electric

First Solar is definitely getting ready for growth. The solar company has brought on a new chief executive who formerly ran Honeywell Aerospace, a division that brings in over $12 billion a year. That's more than First Solar's entire market cap.

The new CEO, Rob Gillette, headed Honeywell Aerospace for only four years, but managed to grow its revenues over 15 percent during his time there, a significant bump in that industry. First Solar will obviously be hoping for more, but there's also more room to grow in the solar industry.

Unmentioned in the announcement are a couple important positives for First Solar. The company has been taking on more huge, utility-scale installations this year, projects that are very different from selling solar panels to home and business installers. Honeywell worked on similar scales, taking on big contracts from companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Airbus.

In doing so, it also became part of ]the lengthy, complicated processes involved in winning government contracts. That's the kind of experience that can only be gained hands-on -- and First Solar will likely need it.

Finally, Gillette also spent over a decade at General Electric, which is positioning itself to be one of the biggest companies in the renewables business, both on the project and finance side.

As others have pointed out already, a new CEO won't protect First Solar from rapidly falling silicon prices, lets standard solar cell makers engage in price wars with the company's own thin-film variant. But if First Solar is planning on developing more of its own mega-projects, Gillette could take it a long ways.