Friday, January 16, 2009

First Solar Snags Rival Solyndra’s Top Scientist (FSLR)

Back in October* I was a bit surprised by the news that Goldman Sachs was downgrading the solar industry at the same time they were attempting to do a private placement for Solyndra.

The analyst focused on First Solar, which came as a bit of a shock as GS had been FSLR's investment banker and was a major shareholder (at one point three million shares at $317, a cool billion dollars [plus proceeds of the sale of another million shares on the run up]).
Goldman sold their FSLR position before the analyst downgrade.
This article is from Greentech Media:
Markus Beck, a well regarded solar researcher, has left Solyndra for First Solar. Let the speculation about Solyndra's future begin.
Markus Beck, the chief scientist at Solyndra, has defected to thin-film solar giant First Solar, according to sources.

The departure of Beck is a major loss for Solyndra, according to solar execs who heard about the switch. As chief scientist, Beck oversaw projects for improving the efficiency and performance of the company's unusual, cylindrical copper, indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar cells. His name is on various Solyndra patents.

"Beck was truly the key technical solar guy over there," wrote one solar exec.

Both Solyndra and First Solar have not returned calls for comment. Rumors of Beck's departure and new home at First Solar began to percolate yesterday afternoon.

The news will likely spark lively gossip and debate in Silicon Valley and the solar world. Like Miasolé and Nanosolar before it, Solyndra has become the CIGS company of the moment. When CIGS comes up as a topic, the conversation very soon begins to revolve around the Fremont, California-based company.

Company backers and executives assert that Solyndra has moved ahead of competitors in the CIGS market. It is in production and, just as important, it has signed multimillion dollar contracts to deliver solar modules to customers. In all, the company has signed deals to deliver around $1.5 billion worth of solar modules to customers between now and 2012.

Detractors, however, paint a different story. Solyndra may have raised over $600 million between 2005 and the middle of 2008, but the last round of financing has been tough. Solyndra started seeking an additional $350 million< ;/a> in the middle of summer. Many VCs said they passed on the deal. On the last day of 2008, Solyndra filed a document with the SEC stating that it had raised approximately $219.2 million....MORE

HT: BNET Energy who write:

...In the high-stakes world of thin-film solar, only two things seem relatively certain. One is that First Solar will survive. The company has an early lead, and has already demonstrated that it can reach manufacturing efficiency that make its cells superior in most cases to standard silicon-based photovoltaics.

The other certainty is that many of the other companies currently jostling for space in the market will fade away or be bought out. First Solar’s stability would be attractive for any potential hire; the question is whether Becks defected because he feels that Solyndra is in the group of likely failures.

In support of that theory are other departures from Solyndra. Two other scientists also recently left: Ratson Morad, who moved to DayStar Technologies, as well as Benny Buller, who beat Beck to the punch in going to First Solar, and co-founder Jonathan Michael. As a group, the four defections seem to suggest that Solyndra has some serious, possibly insurmountable, technological challenges....

*Was Solyndra the Reason Goldman Sachs Threw First Solar Under the Bus? (FSLR; GS; SPWRA)