Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Pivotal Year For Thin-Film Solar Companies (FSLR; GE)

From Venture Capital Dispatch:
In 2007, start-ups developing “thin-film” solar material were all the rage. Venture investors poured hundreds of millions of dollars into these companies, encouraged by the technology’s low-cost potential as an alternative to high-priced polysilicon-based solar panels, as well as by several initial public offerings in the solar market.
Let me step in here and make a point of the erroneous editorializing in that high-priced-silicon line.
Because of the far greater efficiency of silicon, the produced price of the electricity is very similar, that's why China has been able to build a multi-billion-dollar (hey, I like the hyphen game!) industry based on silicon.
But after the recession hit, polysilicon dropped in price, capital dried up and the general demand for solar panels waned.

The fortunes of thin-film solar developers–which use copper indium gallium selenide, or CIGS–are now up in the air, and this year may prove pivotal as capital remains in short supply.

Some of these start-ups may seek to transfer into the hands of larger partners. HelioVolt Corp., for instance, is searching for a buyer after raising more than $140 million in venture capital, as VentureWire reported today. “The next step of evolution requires a lot more capital than we have,” said Scott Sandell, general partner at New Enterprise Associates, which was an early backer of the Austin, Texas, company.
Others will try to go it alone.

SoloPower Inc., another CIGS play, went through a rough period, including CEO changes, but is staging a comeback. It’s relying on government funding to forge ahead in its manufacturing plans. On Thursday the Department of Energy provided a conditional commitment to issue the company a $197 million loan guarantee. This is a strong endorsement, as the program is highly competitive, especially given that it already provided a large loan to another CIGS company, Solyndra Inc. DOE officials previously said they would seek to diversify among technologies....MORE
See also:
Solar: Get on Board the CIGS Love Train (FSLR; ASTI; DSTI) Miasole; Nanosolar 

"Metrics for Thin Film Solar CIGS Company Comparisons" (FSLR; ASTI; DSTI) Miasole; Nanosolar
Watch Out First Solar: "GE outlines R&D efforts with CdTe thin-film technology" (FSLR; GE)
Was Solyndra the Reason Goldman Sachs Threw First Solar Under the Bus? (FSLR; GS; SPWRA) Goldman Sachs and the Solar Land Rush (FSLR; GS)

We've been following this stuff for a while.