Who hasn't been the CEO of DayStar Technologies?
The company, which hopes to mass produce copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar modules, announced today that Magnus Ryde would step down as CEO. Peter Lacey, who has been the chairman since 2009, will become interim CEO.
Ryde came to the company about a year ago, but that makes him practically a lifer at DayStar. A TSMC alum, Ryde was the fifth person to hold that job in less than a year. The year before, Stephan DeLuca resigned, and was succeeded by interim CEO Robert Aldrich (not the TV actor). Michael Mathvieshen followed a little while later: he served as CEO from mid-September to the beginning of October, when CFO William Steckel became interim CEO number two.
Also in 2009, COO and Solyndra alumni Ratson Morad left DayStar, as did two board members. Oh, and it got booted by its landlord last year.
So what went wrong? DayStar was the kind of company with too many scientific geniuses and not enough people who knew how to sign a lease for a printer or a copy machine. The company also struggled with its manufacturing process. CIGS has been challenging: nearly all of the vendors have faced delays. HelioVolt is up for sale. Solyndra has been the focus of several critics. Nanosolar: come out wherever you are. But some companies seem to be headed toward escape velocity. MiaSolé is shipping products and will try to pull an IPO later this year. Stion received $50 million in investment from TSMC last year and won a sweetheart deal to open a factory in Mississippi.
Meanwhile, Hyperion Power Generation, which wants to start delivering a hot-tub-sized nuclear reactor by 2013, said that Robert Price will become the new CEO, replacing John "Grizz" Deal. (We will miss Grizz. He is the only CEO with a Wrestlemania-quality name that we know of.)
Hyperion's reactor, based in part on technology from Los Alamos National Labs, can produce 25 megawatts of electricity or 70 megawatts of thermal energy. The idea behind modular reactors is that they can reduce the onerous construction and design costs associated with nuclear. Last year, Constellation canceled Calvert Cliffs III, a nuclear reactor in Maryland that would have cost $6,000 per kilowatt not including fuel or the ten to fifteen years of interest that would accumulate while construction was underway.
Wind turbines only operate at a 27 percent capacity, but they cost $2,000 per kilowatt. Solar is approaching $3,000 per kilowatt. Yes, solar panels don't work at night, but batteries are coming down and you can build solar farms in a few months. The U.S. will plant the equivalent of a reactor in the ground this year: the nuclear industry may generate only paperwork. Any way you look at it, conventional nuclear reactors face some real challenges.
By building reactors in factories and stringing them together in a modular fashion, many of the permitting and other costs will go down. Hyperion has signed agreements to agree to put their reactors at Savannah River, Georgia and in Australia.
Still, it's not an easy market. NuScale Power, which also has a modular reactor, is in limbo at the moment because of troubles being experienced by one of its investors. (The trouble has nothing to do with NuScale.) Sandia National Labs and Babcock & Wilcox, which has been building nuclear facilities since the 1950s, also have modular reactors, making them formidable competition. And 2013 is not that far away.