This year is shaping up to be a pretty good one for MiaSole, which began to disclose its customers earlier this year after spending roughly two years to get the manufacturing technology right. The Kleiner Perkins-backed company on Tuesday said it has a deal to supply Juwi with 8.5 megawatts of solar panels.
The march of the chipmakers into solar continues. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. — a heavyweight in contract chipmaking — announced Wednesday that it has signed a licensing agreement and has invested $50 million in Silicon Valley thin-film solar startup Stion.
Look at a solar panel and you might think of its manufacturer or installer, or maybe – if you’re a true solar geek – the company that made the cells inside the panel. But when Marc Doyle, global business director for DuPont Photovoltaic Solutions, looks at a panel he sees all the little overlooked pieces that enable it to work properly: the conductive silver metal lines, the front and back sheets and the encapsulant to protect the cells. That’s because nearly all are made by DuPont (s DD), and as Doyle puts it, “What you’re looking at is a bunch of DuPont stuff. But nobody looks at it this way except for DuPonters.”
Because while DuPont, one of the world’s largest chemical companies, has been actively providing critical materials to the solar industry for the last 25 years, solar is one of the last industries that the company’s name conjures up for most people –- well behind, say, chemicals, agriculture or materials like nylon and lycra (commonly called spandex). Now DuPont is looking to change that.
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Four-year-old thin-film solar startup SoloPower has so far kept a low profile, with only four press releases posted on its site since 2007 and none before then. But earlier this month, the San Jose, Calif.-based company said it was applying for a $190 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy to build a high-volume manufacturing plan — a move that it hopes will accelerate it “into its next stage of growth.”
SoloPower also announced this month that its founding chief executive, Homayoun Talieh, is leaving and that it has selected Lou DiNardo, a partner with SoloPower investor Crosslink Capital, as its interim CEO. The news came just a few months after the departure of Rommel Noufi, who had been the company’s vice president of research.
At the Intersolar North America conference in San Francisco last week, we sat down with Alain Harrus, a partner at Crosslink Capital and a SoloPower board member, to get an update on what’s happening at SoloPower and hear his thoughts on some of the changes the industry is seeing in solar investing. Here are excerpts from our conversation:
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Thin-film solar startup Nanosolar isn’t exactly known for being shy. The San Jose, Calif.-based company has attracted plenty of attention –- as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in funding -– for claims that its technology can produce highly efficient copper-indium-gallium-diselenide panels for less than $1 per watt. A post from outspoken CEO Martin Roscheisen back in December, for example, essentially bashed competitor Solyndra, claiming its tube-style design provides no advantage over flat panels.
But Nanosolar has been keeping uncharacteristically mum over the last few months — no press releases, and far fewer of those blog posts. Roscheisen told us recently that the company is purposely keeping quiet and plans to start talking again in September.
It looks like Nanosolar is hard at work, especially as the silence has been combined with a series of job and internship openings recently posted on sites such as SimplyHired and VentureLoop, as well as the company’s own.
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Ausra Scales Back Solar Plans: Solar startup Ausra has abandoned plans to build massive solar-thermal power plants in favor of smaller, cheaper units because of a lack of financing. — CNET’s Green Tech
More Money, More Problems?: Congress plans to put $10 billion or more in economic stimulus funding into a DOE loan guarantee program that hasn’t backed any projects since it began in 2005. A DOE spokesperson said the program will move more quickly now that it has motivated administrators. — Bloomberg
Obama’s No Jimmy Carter: The new president keeps the Oval Office toasty enough to wear shirtsleeves, opting not to demonstrate energy conservation on the job. — NYT’s Green Inc.
High-Speed Rail Hops on the Fast Track: After languishing for years at the margins of federal policy, passenger rail projects are picking up speed as President Barack Obama joins states in calling for investment in rail infrastructure. — Wired’s Autopia
CIGS on the Rise: Research firm NanoMarkets projects CIGS-based thin film photovoltaics sales will reach $2.1 billion in 2016, up from $402.1 million expected in 2011. — PV Tech
Thin-film manufacturer Global Solar Energy has flipped the switch on its 750-kilowatt solar project in Tucson, Ariz., which it claims is the world’s largest system using solar cells made of copper-indium-gallium-diselenide. The company, which makes CIGS solar cells, announced this week that the project is fully operational.
Global Solar, which in March said it was breaking ground on the solar field, previously had said the project would go live between September and November. Last month, the Gunther Portfolio reported via an anonymous source that it had actually been turned on at the end of October.
MMA Renewable Ventures, which pays the upfront cost of renewable-energy projects for commercial customers in exchange for long-term agreements to sell the resulting power to those customers, financed the Global Solar system and owns and operates it.
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Now that solar startup Solyndra has come out into the sun, we’re slowly getting more details on the company’s technology and business. Today Solyndra announced that it has signed a sales deal with German solar integrator GeckoLogic GmbH valued at $250 million. This deal is part of the $1.2 billion in contracts Solyndra unveiled in its coming out announcement. The other two customers include Phoenix Solar, another German solar integrator, and Solar Power Inc., a U.S.-based solar manufacturer and integrator. Final delivery to GeckoLogic will happen by 2012.
The company says it’s already delivering product and is focused in the short-term of ramping up production. Solyndra currently operates a fabrication line at its headquarters in Fremont, Calif., and has a new manufacturing facility planned in nearby Milpitas. That site is currently undergoing environmental review. The 300,000-square-foot Fremont facility has a production capacity of 110 megawatts and, when completed, the Milpitas plant will add 420 megawatts of capacity. Check out this video to see Solyndra’s automated fabrication.
Solyndra’s special sauce is in its unique panel design. A photovoltaic copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) compound is wrapped around a series of tubes until they resemble a row of black, fluorescent lights. Each module is curved to catch the maximum amount of light from any direction, so the panels don’t need to be carefully angled and laboriously secured like traditional PV panels. The company just came out of stealth two weeks ago but was founded three years ago. Solyndra says it has already raised more than $600 million from investors like Redpoint Ventures, RockPort Capital, Argonaut, CMEA Ventures, U.S. Venture Partners, the Walton family fund, Madrone Capital, Abu Dubai’s MASDAR and Richard Branson’s Virgin Green Fund.
For all those that have been waiting to catch a glimpse of how Nanosolar has been printing its next-generation thin film solar cells, here’s some eye candy for you. The company, which started manufacturing in just December, put up this video clip of what the company says is the solar industry’s first 1 GW production tool. The $1.65 million machine prints at an awesome 100-feet-per-minute pace and uses nanoparticle ink, which the company says is their secret sauce.
Nanosolar CEO Martin Rocheisen writes on his blog that the speed of the process makes the company’s printing “two orders of magnitude more capital efficient than a high-vacuum process: a twenty times slower high-vacuum tool would have cost about ten times as much per tool.”
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After our computers, our cell phones are surely the most essential tool for most web workers. With our on-the-go working habits, many of us spend hours every week with the tiny phones pressed to our ears, dealing with clients and coworkers. Recently the potential health risks of cell phones are back in the news – CNN and the New York Times are among the major media that have covered this issue.