German solar manufacturer Schott has spun out its thin-film panel business in anticipation of further growth, a company spokesperson said Thursday.

Schott decided to transfer its thin-film business to its own company, a subsidiary called Schott Solar Thin Film, to make the business more transparent, said the spokesperson, Brian Lynch.

So why is this important? Lynch said such maneuverings help banks and investor groups feel more comfortable when investing. And it opens up more funding options for Schott's thin-film business, he added.

Schott sees tremendous opportunities in thin-film and harnessing it will take financing, Lynch said. To that end, "we are looking into a variety of options, but nothing is committed or finalized," he said.

Schott currently has a thin-film capacity of 36 megawatts annually and claims it will expand to 100 megawatts of capacity in the next few years.

According to Schott, Schott Solar Thin Film will continue to produce thin-film panels and parts from plants based in Jena and Putzbrunn, Germany.

In November, Schott announced it had invested €75 million ($116 million according to Thursday's exchange rate) in thin-film technology at the Jena location.

And in April, Schott and Germany's Ersol Solar Energy announced an agreement to develop micromorphous technology for thin-film solar cells. Micromorphous thin-film cells combine amorphous and microcrystalline materials in an approach that advocates say could convert more sunlight into energy than other thin films.

But Schott, or rather Schott Solar Thin Film, isn't the only one that sees big opportunities in thin film.

A number of thin-film companies have been running to get a foot in the door - and to give First Solar a run for its money.

Applied Materials, for example, on Tuesday announced a second order from Sunfilm in Germany. Sunfilm said it expects its first SunFab Thin Film Line to begin production in July, with the second line - which would bring its annual capacity to more than 120 megawatts - scheduled to start about a year later.

Applied Materials posted second-quarter earnings that fell 26 percent to $302.5 million this week, although the decline came from its chip equipment sales, not solar.

There's also Santa Clara, Calif.-based Miasolé, which said last week it plans to ship its first commercial thin-film solar panels to customers by the end of this year, and Austin, Texas-based HelioVolt, which bragged Monday that it had produced thin-film solar cells that can convert 12.2 percent of the sunlight that hit them into electricity (see Miasolé Clears the Air and HelioVolt Hits 12.2% Efficiency).

Other solar technologies also are picking up steam.

IBM Research on Thursday announced it has developed a concentrating-photovoltaic technology, based on a liquid metal, that can cool cells from 1,600 to 85 degrees, enabling systems that can concentrate the sun more than 1,000 times. Sunrgi, a startup in Los Angeles, last month said it had created a material that could enable concentrations of up to 2,000 times (see Sunrgi Keeps Solar Cool).

And concentrating solar-thermal company BrightSource on Wednesday announced it had raised an eyebrow-raising $115 million from, VantagePoint Venture Partners, BP Alternative Energy, Statoil Hydro Venture and Black River, as well as its returning investors DBL Investors, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Chevron Technology Ventures (see Green Light and VentureBeat posts).