The ridiculous claims of Off Grid Solar might be coming to an end.

We've covered the physics- and logic-defying solar science of James McKirdy and his griftacular firm a few times in the past -- as well as his easily debunked spec sheets and business claims. The gory details can be found below.

Here's an update:

The State of Florida Division of Corporations revoked McKirdy's corporation due to non-filing of an annual report. Details here.

The company's website is down and the phone appears to be disconnected.

But McKirdy has the habit of resurfacing. Buyer beware.
 

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In any rapidly growing market, like solar, there are going to be bad actors.  

We reported on Off Grid Solar a few months ago. Their technological and business claims made no sense to our staff nor to our highly informed readership (see the comment thread for this article).

Off Grid Solar of Fort Lauderdale, Florida has claimed:

  • A "breakthrough solar power generation panel" that measures 2 feet by 4 feet and yields 630 watts.
  • The firm "has obtained orders for 850 megawatts of panels."
  • The firm's panels have an "energy conversion rate of 46 percent -- the highest on the market" (the Off Grid Solar website actually claims 50 percent conversion efficiency).
  • "These are low-light panels capable of full production in light conditions that would normally stop most other panels from producing usable energy."
  • "These panels come with a 56-year manufacturers' limited warranty on workmanship."
  • "A manufacturing plant is being outfitted as of this announcement in Nevada which will nearly triple the Florida production output, which is expected to be approximately 5.25 million watts per 8-hour shift daily, initially."

Most of our readership could immediately detect a funny smell emanating from these ridiculous claims. But not everyone that Jim McKirdy, the CEO, approached was as astute in character judgment or technological due diligence as our brilliant readership.

In the months since we ran the original article, I have spoken to a succession of embarrassed investors, gullible business partners (some on the edge of tears), burned landlords, and bankrupt distributors. Everyone I spoke with was less than comfortable with their names being used in this article out of embarrassment or because they are involved in legal proceedings.

Here's a list:

  • A team of lawyers has invested in the dubious company to act as distributors in California -- a case of greed clouding good judgment. Even a beginner in solar should be able to discern the questionable veracity of these claims.
  • Panels supposedly made by the firm were shipped to at least two parties. When tested by these reputable groups, the panels were labeled, in one case, as being from defunct a-Si vendor EPV Solar. In another case the panels tested with efficiencies in the low teens. It would appear that Off Grid Solar is misrepresenting another vendor's panels as their own.
  • In May, an employee of the company, Tom Cernera, invited me to their "factory" for a tour. I told Mr. Cernera I would book the next flight to Florida. Since then, I have contacted the company numerous times and have not received a response.

I managed to speak to Mr. McKirdy on Thursday afternoon and was treated to a set of denials and misinformation. They are not in production but he can send me a cell. They are building a factory but they are outsourcing the manufacturing. The cells are "triple-junction indium gallium on silver," "an old technology."  The current efficiency is "41 percent." He has a customer building a 360-megawatt solar farm. (I've gotten hold of OGS' acceptance of a purchase order. See below.)

A word to investors and customers -- there is a wide range of solar suppliers in the world with which to invest and shop.

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As a reporter at Greentech Media, my email inbox is pelted daily with scores of green product and clean energy press releases, some interesting, most not.

There's also the category of, "Huh?"

These include press releases for bidets (they eliminate the use of toilet paper), green and good-for-the-environment cigarettes, and perpetual motion machines of all varieties. The perpetual motion machine inventors tend to come from Eastern Europe and Pakistan for reasons unknown.

Falling more into the latter category, I suspect, is the press release I just received from Off Grid Solar of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which claims:

  • A "breakthrough solar power generation panel" that measures 2 feet by 4 feet and yields 630 watts.
  • The firm "has obtained orders for 850 megawatts of panels."
  • The firm's panels have an "energy conversion rate of 46 percent -- the highest on the market" (the Off Grid Solar website actually claims 50 percent conversion efficiency).
  • "These are low-light panels capable of full production in light conditions that would normally stop most other panels from producing usable energy."
  • "These panels come with a 56-year manufacturers' limited warranty on workmanship."
  • "A manufacturing plant is being outfitted as of this announcement in Nevada which will nearly triple the Florida production output, which is expected to be approximately 5.25 million watts per 8-hour shift daily, initially."

Evidently, the black swan has landed. Off Grid is going to provide enough photovoltaic panels to satisfy the needs of the 2010 U.S. market at a record-setting efficiency with an unprecedented warranty -- with panels built in Florida.

The founder of Off Grid Solar is Jim McKirdy and according to Randy Abraham, writing in the Sun Sentinel in May of last year, McKirdy "has located a site for his factory, lined up engineers and project managers, ordered equipment and raw materials, and is applying for state and county grants." Abraham was bylined as a "Special Correspondent" in the article, although he now works for Off Grid Solar in a public relations and marketing role.

Abraham wrote that "Fort Lauderdale officials recently awarded a $450,000 grant to a company that is working to open a factory to build solar panels and hire 150 workers over the next three years. The payout will be over four years, and money will be released one year after actual jobs are created. The state will pay out 80 percent of the total, with the city and county contributing 10 percent each, said a city spokesman."

I contacted Off Grid Solar as well as SolarBest Energy, their exclusive distributor, for their response. Randy Abraham of Off Grid Solar responded to my email inquiry and verified that they did in fact have 850 megawatts on order by "government agencies, developers of solar farms, and distributors." He added, "Our first factory in Fort Lauderdale is projected to be fully operational in the second quarter of this year. Already, key hires have been made by the President and Chief Science Officer in Production, Engineering, Sales, Marketing and Finance. By the end of 2012 we expect to have three factories on line in the Fort Lauderdale area. Our workforce at that time is expected to total 600."

The 850 megawatt figure raised a red flag, of course, but not as much as my next exchange.

The firm sent me a document with this illustration:



I asked him about the firm's triple-junction solar cells, which is what I interpreted this diagram to illustrate, and Abraham responded, "Eric, I am not familiar with the term 'triple-junction solar cells.' We are building panels -- maybe the graphic was confusing, but it was intended to be an illustration -- not chips. We stand behind our claims for efficiency and orders to date."

Again, those efficiencies are more than 46 percent at the panel level and the orders are 850 megawatts.

At this point, I felt I was losing my grip on reality.

It gets worse. Here's an excerpt from a document sent to me by an actual representative of the company. The text is printed as received.

 

Our 'Next Generation' (NXGen) products have been developed for all types of off-grid applications but the technology has powerful and profitable applications within the commercial interconnected marketplace.

 

Many people are already using our electronically designed photovoltaic cells to capture the sun’s energy and produce electric power to operate many products that make our lives easier. Solar landscaping lighting and the solar calculator were some of the products we developed along with space applications and Aids to Navigation Systems (ATONS). Now there are millions of our products all over the world.

 

Using a proprietary and patented process Off Grid Solar has achieved a panel efficiency rate of over 46%. These products were originally designed to function in low light and harsh climatic conditions. Compared to conventional polysilicon designs that absorb only 40% of all available energy, our panels can absorb and convert 98% of the entire electromagnetic spectrum. All OGS products contain multiple layers of converting potential that seeks out Ultra Violet, Infrared and ambient radiation. This enables an OGS panel to expand the solar window to over 9 hours; this represents over 4 hours of additional solar production each day.

 

NXGenSolar™ panels are not adversely affected by temperature; the operational window is between -300º & +600º Fahrenheit. This makes them highly effective even in extremely hot or cold conditions, since energy is produced at a consistent rate.

 

Off Grid Solar uses its competitive edge of economic justification to turn potential customers into qualified projects.  While other companies often highlight the positive environmental impact that their designs offer, Off Grid Solar will also offer superior economic justifications for their products. Since the technology being used is more efficient than conventional solar products, our technology provides evidence that the customer can harvest more energy per day and thus create greater positive cash flow for a longer period of time.

 

Based on competitive c-Si systems Off Grid Solar offers superior profit potential based on the enhanced productivity of the technology and the reduced to-market costs. Additionally, these modules carry a 56-year production warranty; within years 1-15 energy loss shall not exceed 5% of ratings and over the remaining 46 years losses shall not exceed 10%. Furthermore, compared to competitive products that produce approximately 13.2w/sf (industry average), OGS panels can exceed 78w/sf thereby increasing project yield and profits.

 

I especially love the "-300º & +600º" temperature range, not to mention the claim that the company's "panels can absorb and convert 98% of the entire electromagnetic spectrum." I was not able to find any Earth-based patents listed under the founder's name or under the company's name.

Perhaps there is a physicist amongst our readership who can explain this technology to me. Or an English teacher or mental health professional that can explain the document.

Thanks for letting me share this week's most interesting press release.

 

Here's a picture of the founder of the firm from the Florida Business Journal:

Tags: charlatans, florida, high efficiency, installers, off grid solar, pv panel manufacturing, pv panels, solar panel manufacturing, solar panels