It's official. Nanosolar, the CIGS thin-film solar panel aspirant which produced little but hype and broken promises, is done. Its assets are being auctioned off.
This should come as no surprise to GTM readers. We reported on the layoffs, the skeleton crew, and the "restructuring for sale" back in April. If you speak CIGS, then you know that "restructuring for sale" translates to "Hanergy, please buy us."
But a white knight never emerged as it did for MiaSolé, HelioVolt, and Ascent -- and so, Nanosolar joins Solyndra, AQT, SoloPower, etc. on the list of failed CIGS solar firms.
Nanosolar has retained Heritage Global Partners to "jointly manage a bulk and piecemeal sale for its state-of-the-art solar production and manufacturing equipment and related capital assets of its California-based factory," according to a release earlier this week.
The online auction is scheduled for August 13, if you are interested in buying some barely used, museum-quality solar manufacturing equipment.
Nanosolar printed CIGS inks on aluminum foil in a roll-to-roll process. Roll-to-roll has always been a PV technology with promise, but Nanosolar never delivered on its ten years of technical and commercial promises.
The metal wrap-through (MWT) architecture chosen by Nanosolar was thought by some to be overcomplicated and unsuitable for low-cost production. Sources close to the company suggest that Nanosolar effectively jumped from prototype to production without sufficient reliability testing or dialing in the process.
Nanosolar produced a total of less than 50 megawatts since its founding in 2002, despite having raised more than $400 million from a long list of investors including MDV, Benchmark Capital, EDF Group, Firelake Capital Management, GLG Partners, Grazia Equity, Lone Pine Capital, Mitsui & Co., Riverstone Holdings, SAC Capital, Swiss Re and U.S. Venture Partners. Nanosolar and its ilk has cost a few partners at these VC firms their careers in venture, although those folks have found safety in consulting and government.
The most recent $70 million round came from Mohr Davidow, OnPoint Technologies, Aeris Capital and Ohana Holdings at a valuation slashed from $2.1 billion to $50 million, according to VentureWire. It's Aeris Capital that has run the show for the last few years at Nanosolar. One of Aeris' partners is a former Nanosolar employee and it's likely that Aeris is now the owner of Nanosolar's German factory.
The only investors ever to make money in CIGS are USVP and Garage Ventures. USVP sold its shares in Nanosolar and exited at a small multiple in 2005, according to Nanosolar's founding CEO Martin Roscheisen. Garage Ventures "sold a big chunk of stock in the third round" when MiaSolé stock had a valuation of $400 million, according to Bill Reichert, a partner at the VC firm.
Martin Roscheisen was Nanosolar's founding CEO through 2010. Geoff Tate was CEO for about two years, replaced by Eugenia Corrales, who in turn was replaced by Karl Steigele.
Here's Roscheisen's version of Nanosolar history.