First Solar’s stock is smoking hot on Tuesday, soaring almost 50 percent to reach almost $40 per share. That’s quite a turn around for the solar thin film leader who had such a difficult year in 2012.
Shortly after SoloPower announced it has started up its first commercial scale factory in Portland, Oregon, the thin film solar startup also more quietly filed a statement saying it has raised $12 million in debt.
Despite raising $500 million in funding for its thin film solar panel technology, Miasole is restructuring and laying off around 200 people, according to a report.
Thin film solar company Nanosolar announced on Friday that it has raised $70 million, a round which includes the previously announced $20 million. Overall Nanosolar has taken in at least $450 million since its start in 2002.
Solar thin film maker MiaSole is fighting for survival in a solar market that has seen many manufacturers shutter factories over the past year. The startup announced Wednesday that it’s raised $55 million to help it enter a new market and boost its sales staff.
So-called “third-generation” ultra-thin film solar company Solexant has amassed another $23.47 million in equity from investors, according to a filing, and at the same time has reportedly abandoned a $25 million loan from the state of Oregon.
Tech stocks took a beating on Monday morning, the first day of trading after Standard & Poor downgraded the credit ratings of credit agencies. At the same time, greentech stocks — from solar to biofuels to smart grid — fell alongside the weak macro economic news.
Thin-film solar panels — solar PV panels that use alternatives to silicon to convert sunlight to electricity — have one big champion. That’s First Solar, the world-leading producer of cadmium-telluride panels. The other thin-film chemistry of copper indium gallium selenide — CIGS — holds less than 2 percent of global market share. But a few other CIGS companies are selling in the 100’s of megawatts today, including Japan’s Solar Frontier, which specializes in CIGS, and Germany’s Q-Cells, which makes both polysilicon solar panels and CIGS panels through its Swedish acquisition Solibro. Today, Q-Cells launched sales of its CIGS panels in the United States, seeking to colonize a new market that’s actually growing, rather than shrinking, as is the case for Europe’s previously leading markets of Germany and Italy. Q-Cells started selling its silicon solar panels in North America a year ago, but it doubtless wants to position its CIGS cells as a contender to First Solar, since CIGS panels tend to have slightly higher efficiencies than First Solar’s cadmium-telluride panels. Can CIGS catch up? With Q-Cells and Solar Frontier making their marks, and General Electric planning to enter the market with a 400MW production line, investors are likely anxious to see if the very richly funded CIGS startups such as Miasole, Nanosolar and Solyndra can get off the ground.
Solyndra, the thin film solar tube maker, has been planning on raising even more funds this year, and according to a filing on Thursday, has raised another $10.66 million in options, warrants or rights to acquire another security.
What’s Intel doing in a solar panel factory? Eight Intel employees are helping thin-film solar startup Miasole fine-tune its two Silicon Valley factories, as the well-funded CIGS maker struggles to reach a scale of production that will allow it to compete against the big boys in the solar PV space. Intel doesn’t make solar panels, but it has plenty of expertise in the far more rigorous work of turning out chips — and at least for silicon-based panels, the production methods could see some crossover. In fact, startups like AQT Solar are refurbishing memory disk drive fabrication equipment to churn out thin-film panels, in an attempt to leverage the investment already made into high-volume manufacturing. Startups like Miasole, Nanosolar, Solyndra and other thin-film contenders have created their own manufacturing gear to maximize their in-house technological prowess and increase efficiencies of the panels they make. But they’ve also racked up hundreds of millions of dollars in expenses doing so, and are faced with a make-or-break year to either scale up to compete with the likes of First Solar and Solar Frontier (not to mention the ever-cheapening silicon solar panel giants), or leave their investors disappointed.