‹ Older | Rumor: First Solar Looks to Experiment With CIGS Rumor: First Solar Looks to Experiment With CIGS | Newer ›
Speculation is swirling that First Solar -- the thin-film solar cell giant that makes cadmium telluride solar cells -- is taking a look at CIGS. No one says there are product plans. Instead, First Solar will start to examine CIGS in its labs, according to the rumor mill. Whether or not the company comes out with a CIGS product is impossible to say, but lab experimentation is generally an early sign of some interest in a market. Part of the speculation is tied to the recent hire of Markus Beck, the former chief scientist at Solyndra. Solyndra specializes in copper indium gallium selenide. First Solar also several months ago created a disruptive technologies department to look at alternative solar chemistries and technologies. It is run by Raffi Garabedian. The company is also checking out lab space in Silicon Valley, say sources. There is also the long-term view. Cad tel solar cells will not be as efficient as harvesting light from the sun as CIGS cells. First Solar cells now sport an efficiency of around 10 percent to 11 percent, and the company has manufactured them for years. Cad tel cells have a theoretical maximum of 19.6 percent. By contrast, CIGS makers are producing small batches of CIGS cells now at around the ten percent level and in the industry has just started. At the National Renewable Energy Labs, experimental cells have hit 19.9 percent and some say a cell that can do 20.2 percent already exists. Ultimately, CIGS cells could hit a mid-20 percent to low-30 percent efficiency level. CIGS cells, say proponents, can also be put on flexible foil substrates. Cad tel cells currently come out on glass substrates, which are more expensive and heavier to ship. On the other hand, First Solar has built a reputation for relentless execution and focus. It has concentrated on cad tel for over twenty years. Getting serious about CIGS would be a shift. The company has also hired other CIGS specialists like Benny Buller in the past. First Solar did not return calls.