Stion, which has devised a copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar panel and is working on a next generation panel, has announced it will build manufacturing facilities in Hattiesburg, Mississippi thanks in part to $75 million in loans and other incentives from the state.
The first phase of the project will be a 100 megawatt production line, Stion's first mass-manufacturing line, that will likely come on line in 2012. Over the next five years, Stion expects to invest $500 million and create 1,000 jobs in the state.
Stion won't be alone down south. The state--a traditional conservative bastion headed up by Republican governor Haley Barbour touted as 2012 Presidential candidate--has been handing out money like a bunch of Democrats. In 2010, the state gave $44 million in loans and grants to Soladigm (electrochromic windows), $75 million to Kior (biofuels) and $54 million to Twin Creeks Technologies (newfangled solar.)
That's $254 million for four companies producing green products. There are two possibilities here:
1. Barbour and other state policy makers believe green companies could become a source of jobs, particularly manufacturing jobs, and even exports for the U.S.; or
2. He's really a socialist and we're going to see him denounced by guys in tricorner hats yammering about the Constitution and death panels. I'm betting on option one.
Either way, if Barbour follows through with the rumored plans for a Presidential run, it will be interesting to hear him speak on the connection between green, government programs and economic growth. It took Nixon to go to China. (Side note: Indiana has been exploiting state funds to attract green investors.)
Besides the willingness to use government funds to stimulate the economy, investors have also said the lower costs and relative lack of bureaucracy make Mississippi attractive.
Three of these companies--Kior, Soladigm and Stion--are from the Khosla Ventures portfolio. The state is also home to SmartSynch, the smart grid manufacturer headed up by former U. of Miss quarterback Stephen Johnston.
Back to Stion. The company started producing a very limited run of CIGS panels last year at its prototyping facility in California. The efficiencies for the CIGS panels comes to around 12 percent. UL certification will come soon.
Besides ramping up volumes of CIGS panels, Stion is also working on a module made of two separate modules mechanically sandwiched together: one of Stion's CIGS panels and another from the company made of solar cells containing chalcopyrite.
The idea behind the tandem module is that the CIGS layer and the more unusual layer can harvest energy from different ranges of the spectrum of light. Ideally, this will let the combined panel produce more energy consistently during a single day.
Last June, Taiwan's TSMC invested $50 million in Stion and obtained a license to the company's technology, so you could see Stion panels under two brands.