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

Rob DeLine, MiaSolé's VP of Marketing, spoke with Greentech Media about the agreement.  According to DeLine, the agreement is meant to "accelerate our expansion plan. It's one thing to go from 20 kilowatt 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.

MiaSolé shipped 22 megawatts in 2010 and has a goal to ship 80 megawatts in 2011.  Average module efficiency in the first quarter was 10.5 percent and "We are shipping higher than that now," according to DeLine. He added that NREL certified a 15.7 percent aperture efficiency in December and claimed that the firm has "a recipe that will deliver over 14 percent" for modules.

DeLine expects capacity to be 150 megawatts by the end of the year -- all in Silicon Valley.

The firm's biggest deal in the U.S. was a five-megawatt program with SolarCity and their customer Walmart. The installation in Arizona and California is complete and MiaSolé is looking for follow-on business.

As MiaSolé attempts to scale their business and "move from great technology to great manufacturing," DeLine says 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 will 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.

There is no solar manufacturing occurring at Intel, nor is Intel responsible for process recipe or equipment development.

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 arrangement.

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.  

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

We reported on CIGS aspirant Solar Frontier's one gigawatt factory and customer announcements yesterday. AQT recently shipped its first CIGS solar panels. Solyndra continues to reduce cost for its unique CIGS panels. Other CIGS vendors include NanoSolar, SoloPower, Global Solar Energy, ISET, HelioVolt, and Ascent.

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