MiaSolé, a CIGS thin-film solar manufacturer that is not Solyndra, has just had a management adjustment.

We have learned from several dependable sources, both inside and outside of the company, that the Intel influence in the company is to become even more prominent. Joseph Laia will retain his CEO title for the time being, albeit in a diminished capacity, according to our sources.

Bob Baker, Intel’s top manufacturing executive until his retirement in February, will step into the role of President. Baker's appointment has been verified by MiaSolé.

Boardroom shakeups and upper management moves are standard affairs at all growing companies. This might not reflect at all on MiaSolé's current performance. In fact, we continue to hear good things about the firm's performance -- namely, that MiaSolé is producing modules at a record rate of about 15,000 per week. We understand that modules are commercially available at efficiencies flirting with 13 percent. The company has told us that it has "a recipe that will deliver over 14 percent" for modules.

MiaSolé shipped 22 megawatts in 2010 and has a goal of shipping 80 megawatts in 2011.  

Rob DeLine, MiaSolé's VP of Marketing expects capacity to be 150 megawatts by the end of the year -- all in Silicon Valley.

The Intel Connection

In April, MiaSolé entered an agreement with Intel in which the semiconductor behemoth would provide manufacturing know-how to MiaSolé as the firm ramps its solar panel production. Intel was to provide a roadmap and model to scale-up panel manufacturing as MiaSolé moves to shipping 80 megawatts in 2011 and far more in 2012.

According to DeLine, the agreement is meant to "accelerate our expansion plan. It's one thing to go from 20 kilowatts to 20 megawatts. Twenty megawatts to 200 megawatts is another challenge."

The deal with Intel is a unique way of approaching this scaling-up challenge.

As MiaSolé attempts to scale their business and "move from great technology to great manufacturing," DeLine told us that the firm "needs a manufacturing culture. We want to scale to millions of units -- but great scientists don't necessarily make great manufacturers."

And that's where Intel comes in.  As DeLine said, "When you start doing millions, you want that copy-exact mentality."

Within Intel there is to be a dedicated team serving MiaSolé's account. The Intel staff is contracted and paid on a milestone basis for achievements in manufacturing parameters such as throughput or efficiency.

MiaSolé board member Brian Krzanich is SVP and GM of Manufacturing and Supply Chain for Intel and responsible for all aspects of Intel's factories and operations worldwide.

This connection would seem to be of some help in the new consulting arrangement -- as well as in the new CEO/President arrangement.

Intel's solar track record (see SpectraWatt) is a bit sketchy. There have been occasional rumors of Intel acquiring MiaSolé. Historically, Intel's acquisition of companies outside their area of expertise has been the kiss of death.

Intel Capital is an investor in Soltecture, another CIGS firm.

Absent an acquisition, an IPO would seem appropriate for the startup, but the Solyndra bankruptcy and FBI raid might put a little damper on market receptivity to that event just now.

Funding, Board, and Competitors

MiaSolé raised most of a $125 million round F in February at a pre-money valuation of $550 million. New investors included Voyageur Mutual Funds III, joining existing investors Kleiner Perkins, Firelake Capital, and VantagePoint Venture Partners. Board members include KP's John Doerr, Firelake's Marty Lagod, VantagePoint's Stephan Dolezalek, and Rob Chandra of Bessemer.

MiaSolé has proven it can build CIGS panels at decent efficiency. The firm has had some positive announcements, such as working with Wal-Mart and SolarCity, as well as the inevitable speed bumps, including a patent issue with Solannex. MiaSolé has signed a 50-megawatt contract with solar project developers juwi Solar. 

We've reported on CIGS aspirant Solar Frontier's one gigawatt factory. AQT recently shipped its first CIGS solar panels. Other CIGS vendors include Stion, NuvoSun, NanoSolar, SoloPower, Global Solar Energy, ISET, HelioVolt, and Ascent.

MiaSolé would appear to be one of the leaders in the CIGS race.

As always, it comes down to price per watt and LCOE, and MiaSolé still has to prove it can compete on those performance metrics with First Solar and Yingli while making a sustainable margin as panel prices continue to drop.