These are interesting times for the CIGS solar community. Here's a very brief recap of the last few months:

  • Stion just unstealthed as a CIGS startup -- with a bit of a twist. 
  • President Obama will be visiting Solyndra this week, presumably to check on his half-billion dollar investment in the firm.  Solyndra continues to win large rooftop installations such as Anheuser-Busch, Coca Cola and Frito Lay.  Inside sources say that the firm is sold out for years to come.
  • Martin Roscheisen, the tight-lipped CEO of Nanosolar, remained tight-lipped as he lost his CEO position to a solar newcomer.  Nanosolar has been relatively quiet of late.  And Martin has not responded to my emails.
  • SoloPower raised some money, partly to pay off their irate CEO and CTO founders in an edgy VC investor-founder tussle. 
  • Global Solar Energy has 75 megawatts of production capacity at two sites and has recently completed a large rooftop CIGS installation.
  • Solar Frontier (the former Showa Shell Solar) sold approximately 43 megawatts of CIGS PV in 2009 and could ship more than 100 megawatts this year according to Shyam Mehta, one of our esteemed solar analysts at GTM.
  • MiaSole is shipping megawatts of modules and talking about fifty-cent-per-watt capex and 85-cents-per-watt product cost.
  • Dow invested in Dave Pearce's NuvoSun
  • Daystar got its fifth CEO in twelve months.
  • Ascent Solar began production at its FAB 2 production plant.  Video here
  • And I almost forgot Q-Cell's Solibro CIGS facility with significant capacity
  • HelioVolt announced, well, nothing.  Their last press release was in June 2009.

The first wave of CIGS aspirants have been big on hype but less convincing in scaling up at a profitable market price.  Solar still comes down to dollar per watt in what is (arguably) a commoditized marketplace.

Entering this scenario are some new CIGS players in what can be described as CIGS 2.0. This approach involves getting to manufacturing scale and low product cost with a capital-efficient model and innovative business plan, not the brute force, build-a-$1-billion-factory-from-scratch method.

One of these new CIGS players is AQT, or Applied Quantum Technologies. The firm recently raised $10 million and has managed to get pretty far on efficiency in a relatively short time.  They've produced CIGS materials at a NREL-validated efficiency of greater than 10 percent.  It has taken most of the other CIGS players several years to reach that efficiency milestone.

The firm announced a partnering deal with Intevac last month, which will provide AQT with manufacturing capacity for the production of AQT’s CIGS cells.  AQT plans to receive its first manufacturing system in the second quarter of this year at its Silicon Valley R&D and production facility.

Today, AQT announced partnerships with Solar Enertech and HelioPower.  Solar Enertech, a large-scale producer of photovoltaic cells and modules, is working with AQT as a module manufacturing partner for AQT’s CIGS cells and will assist with product certification and qualification beginning in the second half of this year.   HelioPower, a solar power design and installation firm, has engineered more than 1,000 solar power systems for residential, commercial, community and utility-scale partners since 2001.