A few months ago, we reported on rumors that First Solar, the globe's leading producer of thin-film photovoltaic panels, was looking to buy 5N Plus (TSX:VNP) to secure its supply of the element tellurium.
It turns out, for now at least, that 5N Plus itself is in an acquisitive mood, while First Solar has busied itself with buying tracker startups.
5N Plus just acquired a majority interest in Sylarus Technologies of Saint George, Utah. Sylarus is a producer of germanium substrates for triple-junction solar cells used for concentrating photovoltaics (CPV). We just reported on a bit of a breakthrough and some cause for optimism in CPV here.
In its most recent quarter, 5N Plus posted revenue of $18.8 million for its high-purity metals business. About 70 percent of 5N Plus' sales come from First Solar.
5N produces other high-purity metals such as cadmium, selenium, germanium, indium and antimony, as well as II-VI semiconducting compounds such as cadmium telluride (CdTe), cadmium sulphide (CdS) and indium antimonide (InSb). The firm also expects to add photovoltaic panel recycling services to its business. CEO Jacques L'Ecuyer owns over a third of 5N Plus stock.
The tellurium supply issue will continue to loom as First Solar grows and especially if Abound or Calyxo or another CdTe panel vendor makes it to high-volume production. Studies by NREL and others calculate the industry being able to absorb significant increases in the price of tellurium. Further reading on tellurium issues here.