First Solar Inc forecast higher-than-expected 2011 profit of $8.75 to $9.50 per share and said its sales would grow by about 46 percent to between $3.7 billion and $3.9 billion.

Analysts have forecast that the company, the world's largest solar manufacturer by market value, would post earnings per share of $8.61 on revenue of $3.63 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Demand for photovoltaic solar modules has surged this year on rising demand in Germany and other European countries, but rising global manufacturing capacity and shrinking subsidies in many markets have sparked fears that prices for the renewable energy systems could tumble in 2011.

Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar said its forecast was based on expected module sales of $2.8 billion to $2.9 billion, plus $900 million to $1 billion of power plant development sales.

First Solar is the lowest-cost producer of the modules that turn sunlight into electricity. It uses cadmium telluride in its thin-film panels rather than the polysilicon used by most of its rivals.

Earlier this month, Suntech Power Holdings Co also topped analysts' forecasts by saying it expected ship 2,200 megawatts of modules in 2011, up from 1,500 MW this year, boosting its revenue to between $3.4 billion to $3.6 billion.

Through Tuesday's close, First Solar's shares were up 1.2 percent since the end of 2009.

First Solar shares rose 2 percent in post-market trading to $139.77 per share.

(Reporting by Matt Daily. Editing by Andre Grenon and Robert MacMillan)