Q-Cells, Germany's -- and once the globe's -- largest solar manufacturer, filed for insolvency in April. The once-dominant solar company lost hundreds of millions of dollars in the last year.

At that time, GTM Research analyst MJ Shiao suggested that Solibro, its CIGS thin film unit, was ripe for acquisition.

And that's just what has happened.

Hanergy, a privately held Chinese power generator with gigawatts of hydropower assets, has acquired the modestly successful thin film unit from the struggling crystalline silicon (c-Si) vendor, according to reports today in the Financial Times. Hanergy also has wind and solar interests and has spoken of investing $15 billion into the solar industry, according to China Daily.

Solibro shipped 66 megawatts of CIGS solar in 2011, "more than any other CIGS manufacturer not named Solar Frontier," in the words of Shiao, who adds that the company had a relatively long history and a "fairly mature" coevaporation technology. 

According to Shiao in his recent and exhaustive thin-film solar market report, Solibro's manufacturing cost is approximately $1.00 per watt and its best commercial efficiency is 12.2 percent.

A spate of recent insolvencies of solar firms has provided opportunities for Chinese firms to gain a presence in Europe. LDK made plans to purchase Germany inverter firm Sunways earlier this year.

Solibro started as a Swedish solar research firm and was acquired by Q-Cells in 2006. 

Here are shipment figures for CIGS vendors in 2011, according to GTM Research:

  • Solar Frontier, 400 megawatts
  • Solibro, 66 megawatts
  • MiaSolé, 60 megawatts
  • Avancis, 25 megawatts
  • Global Solar, 19 megawatts
  • Soltecture, 14 megawatts
  • Nanosolar, <10 megawatts


Shiao submits this analysis: "Obviously this is the better outcome of ongoing consolidation in the thin film market.  The move represents a hard tack by Hanergy away from its previous investments into double-junction amorphous silicon/silicon-germanium.  Hanergy controls a majority ownership stake in Chinese a-Si/SiGe turnkey equipment manufacturer Apollo Solar and originally announced an intent to build out two gigawatts of thin film silicon production capacity by the end of this year, of which 250 megawatts is already built out.  Although there have been some exceptions, low-efficiency Chinese thin film players have seen a rough first part of the year as crystalline silicon pricing has dipped well below $1/W, cutting massively into amorphous's low-efficiency at very low cost value proposition."

He added, "The move by Hanergy is part of a recent trend of well-capitalized Asian companies investing heavily into thin film solar, especially in CIGS -- a trend that has included the likes of Hyundai, SK, TFG Radiant, TSMC, LG and many others.  For Solibro, the acquisition provides desperately needed capital for facility expansion and the all-powerful bankability stamp to their already market-tested technology."