I've heard this from a source and with the documents for an initial public offering filed, I don't expect Solyndra to confirm it, but it gives an insight into why the company seems to have moved ahead of some of the other start-ups in cadmium indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar cells.
CEO Chris Gronet gets a live video feed of the machinery on the factory floor. When and if production slows down, he knows quickly. He even gets the feed at home.
That sort of urgent paranoia lay at the heart of semiconductors and solar panel manufacturing. The multimillion dollar factories these companies must build can only become effectively profitable if utilized in a highly efficient manner. Intel became Intel through the "copy exactly" methodologies pioneered in part by former CEO Craig Barrett. The factories were literally identical: one of the few ways to tell if you are in Arizona versus Israel is the inordinate number of people named Gadi. Execs at rival AMD sometimes joked that they used a "copy somewhat exactly" methodology. That partly explains why so many green start up CEOs have come out of Intel.
Gronet, no coincidence, spent over a decade at Applied Materials, an equipment maker with its own exacting standards, before coming to Solyndra.
Solyndra has its pluses and minuses. Eric Wesoff dug through the S-1 and unearthed interesting details on Solyndra's costs per watt. The company also lost $232 million in fiscal 2009. On the other hand, it has customers and reports efficiencies in the 11 to 14 percent range, or higher than a lot of the other thin films out there. It's going to continue to be one of the big stories of 2010.