The tough market conditions over the past year have forced greentech companies to re-examine and change their business strategies.
One of them is Innovalight, which announced today its ability to produce highly efficient crystalline silicon solar cells. The company has been developing its silicon ink technology since 2002, and was set on becoming a solar cell maker.
But the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based private company changed its focus about nine months ago to pursue opportunities that would require lower capital investments and steer it away from a market already facing a glut of solar cells, said Innovalight CEO Conrad Burke.
Innovalight is now licensing the know how to make silicon ink printing tools and selling the ink. The company contracts with tool makers to produce the printing systems. The ink would come from Innovalight's own factory, which currently has annual production capacity of 100 megawatts, Burke said.
Today, it is working with six solar cell makers to incorporate Innovalight's technology into their manufacturing processes. Burke said the customers already have pre-existing production lines, but want to boost their cells' efficiencies by adding the silicon ink. He declined to disclose their names.
Changing its business model often raises questions about the company's ability to grow or even survive. On the other hand, it also could be seen as an agile move to respond to changing market dynamics.
Nanostellar, for example, set out to make catalysts for reducing tailpipe emissions. Last summer, it decided to license its technology to chemical companies instead of manufacturing its own.
ESolar decided to join forces with a power generation company, NRG Energy, to develop solar power plants in the United States instead of doing it alone. NRG lines up the capital and oversees the project development while eSolar provides the equipment.
In the case of OptiSolar, the strategy was to put the company up for sale.
OptiSolar set out to make amorphous silicon thin film panels and build power plants with them. But the company wasn't able to raise enough capital to do both well. So it sold the power plant projects it had been developing to First Solar for $400 million earlier this year. It then announced a deal in July to sell its manufacturing assets to Allora Minerals for $260 million.