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Will the Real CIGS Vendors Please Stand Up?

Eric Wesoff: March 15, 2009, 10:04 PM
Global Solar claims to lead the pack in flexible CIGS PV More than 35 companies claim to manufacture CIGS-based photovoltaics.  But, only a few of them are actually producing product in meaningful commercial volumes. Large firms like Würth Solar, Avancis (a Shell/St. Gobain joint venture), and Honda are working on CIGS and a number of VC-funded firms are trying to commercialize this technology. But according to Tim Teich, the VP Sales/Marketing at Global Solar, “Global Solar is in the lead. We are the only company with CIGS on flexible substrates in volume production.??? Spun out of ITN Energy in 1996, Global Solar has developed CIGS using multiple deposition methods (both physical vapor sputtering and evaporation at vacuum and atmospheric pressures) on glass, plastic, metal and for BIPV. Global Solar recently focused its business to pursue CIGS on flexible stainless steel foil in a continuous roll-to-roll process. The focus has begun to pay-off as Global Solar has moved from a 4.2-megawatt pilot scale project to scaling up commercial manufacturing, ramping to an intended capacity of 40 megawatts in the U.S. and 30 megawatts in Germany with intentions of adding another 100 megawatts by 2011.  The company's cell efficiencies exceed 10 percent. The company sells CIGS cells, CIGS modules encapsulated in glass, and flexible modules. “Our CIGS cells are drop-in replacements for crystalline silicon solar cells,??? added Teich. Solon, the German PV giant, owns 19 percent of Global Solar with the balance of the firm owned by an unnamed European private equity group.  One of the largest CIGS installations in the world, a 750-kilowatt system that helps power a Global Solar factory, uses Global Solar CIGS cells incorporated into panels by Solon, installed and operated via a PPA by MMA Renewable Ventures. So what about other CIGS players? Here's a list of the top five recipients of VC funding in the CIGS/CIS universe.
Firm VC Received
Solyndra $600M+
Nanosolar $500M
Miasolé $300M
SoloPower $235M+
SulfurCell $165M+
Despite raising a shipload of funding, few of the VC-funded firms have broken past the pilot production phase. According to an email from Martin Roscheisen, CEO at Nanosolar, “2009 is the year where CIGS will become real in the market...!???  But CIGS is already real at Global Solar and Würth Solar (which uses a glass substrate for its CIGS panels).  Maybe this is the year that Nanosolar joins the CIGS leaders in volume production and lets the world know what it's done with that half billion dollars.  Nanosolar recently showed off a picture of one of its installations. 2009 could be the year that CIGS broke. Here’s an inspiring video of some seriously off-grid PV using Global Solar's CIGS cells. For more research on this topic: The Greentech Innovations Report focused on CIGS in this recent issue. And Shyam Mehta, one of our crack solar analysts, looks at the future of CIGS here.

HP Launches Sonata-Based Laptops

Matthew Weinberg: March 15, 2009, 6:24 PM
Same Li-ion technology, but three times the lasting time. HP is today finally launching its Enviro Series notebooks with the tweaked technology inside. The batteries are provided by Boston-Power and are expected to last 1,000 charging cycles, compared to 300 or less from conventional lithium-ion batteries. The Sonata technology from Boston-Power, manufactured by GP Batteries in Hong Kong (see Boston-Power names Asian manufacturing partner), is an improved version of the traditional lithium-ion battery with twice the cell size and an enhanced manufacturing process. The Sonata costs $149, which is toward the high side for HP aftermarket batteries but in the spectrum. HP's batteries sell for $79 to $169 with most around the $120 mark. As previously announced, the new battery is the result of a three-year relationship between HP and Boston-Power. Boston-Power has recently received another $55 million in funding, and wants to put its technology in all kinds of mobile devices, including cars. In a increasingly wireless world, battery companies are eager to make profits laptop and mobile device makers. Most of these firms -- like ZPower, PowerGenix, Altair Nanotechnologies, A123 Systems and Imara -- are trying to improve or replace the basic lithium-ion battery. Meanwhile, Boston-Power is proving it is possible to spice up the capacity quite a bit on existing lithium-ion solutions. And even companies that aren't making batteries today, like Intel, are watching the boom potential of the battery industry with great interest. Former Intel CEO Andy Grove has said that he is urging Intel to get into the market for electric car batteries. Expect more laptop providers adopting the Sonata battery from Boston-Power during the next couple of months. HP is selling them with new laptops in the Enviro Series and as an optional choice with other laptop series later this month. The new Enviro Series laptops all come with a three-year warranty from HP, a sign of trust for the Boston-Power equipped product.