MiaSolé restructuring calls for strategic partner Companies mentioned: MiaSolé, Soltecture, Ascent Solar Technologies, TFG Radiant Investment Group, Norsk Hydro Produksjon AS, Schüco, Dow, Imagine Homes, First Solar
Thin Film Intelligence Brief 1 – 14 August 2012
MiaSolé on strategic partner lookout
Silicon Valley startup MiaSolé, that had raised over $500m from venture capital investors in a C funding round for its next-generation thin film solar technology, has laid off 200 employees in a "significant restructuring” reorganizing manufacturing and operations, in hopes of finding a “strategic partnership.”
MiaSolé has the highest mass-produced module efficiency of any thin-film, which NREL recently verified at 15.5 percent efficiency, and its costs are below 80 cents a watt. Factory capacity will be about 150 megawatts by the end of the year -- all in Silicon Valley.
Despite its efficiency records, the firm has been hit by the same crash in PV prices that felled similarly innovative Solyndra and nearly every other thin film solar company. MiaSolé stressed that unlike Solyndra, it has received no government funding.
While the reductions are just in manufacturing and operations side, the company will retain enough employees to to fill their current sales pipeline. Employees in the technology areas are continuing development of its CIGS technology while the CEO seeks the support of a long term strategic manufacturing partner.
Soltecture efficiency record spurs investor search
German BIPV firm Soltecture is working on its next goal of reaching 16 per cent efficiency for Copper Indium Gallium Selenide by 2015 and at Intersolar in Europe announced an increase of efficiency of 10 per cent within just the last year, for its BIPV solar building cladding incorporating CIGS thin film technology.
The large German firm, which stemmed from the thin-film pioneer Sulfurcell, employs more than fifty highly qualified engineers at its production and development headquarters in Berlin-Adlershof where it manufactures its very solidly constructed and engineered line of solar cladding for the building industry.
In the meantime, however, like so many firms in the thin film sector impacted by the sharp drop in PV prices, Soltecture has just filed insolvency, and is now actively searching for an investor through the internationally renowned investment bank, Macquarie. According to Soltecture CEO Dr. Nikolaus Meyer, through the commitment of Soltecture employees, “our customers have felt little impact of the insolvency, and we were able to sustain our transaction volume."
The company’s creditors have also expressed faith in the company’s business model and the will to contribute to the company’s restructuring. Hartwig Albers, the preliminary insolvency administrator, is widely respected, and the company’s stable business operations and trusted customer base also contribute to their confidence. Albers confirms that "all parties involved have a vested interest in company’s survival."
Ascent re-enters Asian BIPV sector
Thin film modules developer Ascent Solar Technologies has signed an agreement to supply BIPV thin-film laminates for building-integrated PV to Foxconn, the Zhenzhou City-based manufacturer of electronic devices including Apple’s iPad and iPhone and Playstation’s XBox.
The solar modules utilizing Ascent's copper-indium-gallium-diselenide (CIGS) technology will be installed in a pilot application on top of Foxconn’s new factory in Zhenzhou City.
As building-integrated PV (BIPV) the modules' flexible and lightweight form allows the modules to be integrated easily into the building structure in ways conventional glass-back PV technology cannot, yet to deliver the highest power density available on thin-film plastic substrates.
The company’s launch of a solar charger for the iPhone earlier this year caused its shares to more than double, and this new announcement caused shares to increase by 6.1 percent to $1.22 on Wall Street, according to Bloomberg.
Ascent now plans to re enter the BIPV sector, focusing on the Asian market, which is where its biggest shareholder has a particularly large presence. TFG Radiant Investment Group bought all of Ascent’s common stock for 50 cents a share from Norsk Hydro Produksjon AS in April.
Schüco shuts doors on thin film
With its second consecutive yearly double digit drop in sales, within the first half of 2012, German façade and solar manufacturer Schüco has announced it will completely shut down its amorphous silicon (a-Si) thin-film production lines in the once booming “solar valley” region in Eastern Germany by the end of September.
The decision will affect 275 employees, with an additional 200 positions to go in the New Energies division, according to a company press release.
According to the release all production and operations at its thin-film plants will be permanently terminated. The closure will take place in Osterweddingen (near Magdeburg) on 30 September 2012 and in Großröhrsdorf (near Dresden) on 31 August 2012. The R&D facility in Bielefeld will be closed on 31 December 2012.
In order to reduce the long-term cost structures of Schüco International KG in the New Energies division, the company said another 200 jobs will be terminated across its German sites by the end of 2012.
Since 2010 extreme price reductions for photovoltaic modules, overproduction, reductions in subsidies throughout Europe and falling demand in the European core markets have led to a drastic downturn in sales across the entire solar industry,” a statement by the company said.
The Schüco New Energies division battled against fast falling prices and shrinking demand in parts of Europe, and experienced a decline in turnover from over EUR1bn in 2010 to about EUR850m (-19.0%).
Reportedly, in the first half of 2012, the division saw a further double-digit drop in turnover, with sales figures dropping markedly in the high volume markets of Germany, France, Italy and the US due to competition and market conditions.
With A-Si thin-film having amongst the lowest efficiency rate of all thin-film technologies, the company was unable to compete. The market share of all thin film has dropped substantially since its peak of close to 20% of the solar market in 2009.
Dow Solar Shingles on Imagine Homes in San Antonio
Green-building homebuilder Imagine Homes will begin offering Dow's thin-film copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) solar shingle roof system as a standard feature on all homes to new homebuyers in its Willis Ranch residential community in San Antonio, Texas, beginning in September.
Developed by Dow with a grant of $20 million from the U.S. Department of Energy in 2007, as part of the DOE Solar America Initiative to develop building integrated (BIPV) solar, and named one of the 50 Best Inventions of 2009 by TIME magazine, the product is only now going into production after rigorous testing. Dow now has a large-scale manufacturing facility under construction, which is expected to create up to 1275 jobs by 2015.
With UL approval in 2010, it was launched commercially, in very limited quantities, in October 2011. Dow tested the product to withstand rain, hail, and wind uplift, and it offers a 20 year warranty, similar to PV panels. It has seven performance and safety certifications, including UL listing and International Code Council Evaluation Service (ICC-ES) certification.
First Solar staying afloat in thin film wreckage
Amid the bankruptcies in the thin film industry, First Solar, seems to be staying afloat. The company now has the largest pipeline in the industry with more than 2.9 GW of solar PV plants under construction or in development with a PPA.
As a vertical operation the company would seem to be benefitting from being both manufacturer and developer of utility-scale projects.
In a RenewableEnergyWorld report David Erhart said that its “thin-film technology that takes a simple piece of glass and turns it into a complete solar module in less than two and a half hours in a continuous automated process” is behind what has become the world’s largest builder and operator of utility-scale power plants.”
The first company to break the $1 per watt cost barrier, it currently manufactures its CdTe PV cells at a cost of $.72 per watt and estimates average module manufacturing costs will range from $0.60 to $0.64 per watt in 2013.
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