[San Francisco, California USA]
SoloPower has started sampling CIGS products.
It’s all about a strong technology and product platform.
In late March, SoloPower Co-Founder, President, & CEO Homayoun Talieh joined The SOLAR 2.0: BEYOND SILICON PANEL DISCUSSION: Challenges & Opportunities in Thin Film at the ThinkGreen Clean Technology & Alternative Energy Forum organized by ThinkEquity LLC.
SoloPower was founded in early 2006 by Dr. Bulent Basol and Mr. Talieh to develop and manufacture thin film photovoltaic (PV) modules based on CIGS (copper indium gallium diselenide) using electroplating to deposit the thin film on a flexible stainless steel substrate. SoloPower claims their proprietary electrochemical method combined with a continuous, roll to roll process achieves near 100% materials utilization, low cost, and high efficiency.
Both SoloPower founders worked at Monosolar Inc. in the early 1980’s. Dr. Basol lead the development of CdTe (Cadmium Telluride) PV technology at Monosolar using an electroplating method to deposit on glass. Monosolar was sold to Standard Oil of Ohio (later BP). Dr. Basol co-founded International Solar Electric Technology (ISET) and headed technology development programs for CIGS and CdTe based solar cells.
Before SoloPower, Dr. Basol consulted with Nanosolar, Inc. as this Nanosolar History and Milestones webpage notes:
March 2004: The company licenses valuable patents from Dr. Bulent Basol, an early pioneer in printed CIGS.
Regarding the status of SoloPower’s 20 MW (MegaWatt) San Jose manufacturing facility, CEO Talieh said:
We have started sampling products recently.
Responding to a question from ThinkEquity moderator Shez Bandukwala, Mr. Talieh described the challenges in bringing CIGS solar thin film technologies to market. CIGS technology has only been around since the early 1990’s versus silicon with over 50 years of accumulated research and experience. While thin film is more difficult than crystalline silicon, CIGS is even more complex than a-Si (amorphous Silicon) and CdTe based thin films. Delivering high efficiency CIGS solar cells requires hitting a 5% target area of the phase diagram. Tight control complexity over the CIGS process is responsible for delaying large scale manufacturing of CIGS solar cells and modules.
Mr. Talieh said:
From our point of view, from SoloPower, we are at the phase where we think we have a solid technology and product platform, and we are just slowly coming to ramp.
Again, this is the result of my partner’s 20 years work, it’s not just a three or four year effort.
CIGS potential and First Solar
Acknowledging First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) has been around for 20 years, Mr. Talieh said:
They have squeezed almost 80-90% both on the cost and the performance out of the CdTe modules they have. So they have little margin left to improve on it and get to the $0.75 (per watt) numbers.
The only really other viable technology that can squeeze the efficiency well above 10% is CIGS. And every 1% efficiency that CIGS achieves over CdTe, assuming everybody hits $1 per Watt, that’s a 10% saving at your (module) cost.
I think for CIGS it has to get to teens and mid-teens for it to be truly competitive and bring the cost to a level that can basically give a hard time to First Solar. First Solar is a good target to have for CIGS.
For CIGS, there’s a potential of getting to 14-15% (efficiency), and that’s basically what SoloPower is driving at. We have already hit very close to 15% on small area NREL devices. You have to get there in my opinion.
Towards the panel close, Mr. Talieh said:
At least for SoloPower, we’ll be at MegaWatts production in a matter of a few months.
Again, we didn’t announce 100’s of megawatts of expansion plans and so forth over the past few years. And yet we raised over 100 million dollars, and all of that money went into the product development, nothing else, no marketing, no press releases.
Our first line is resulting in very high quality modules and cells, and we always reference ourselves at NREL and DOE.
We’ll be at 20 MW by end of the year time (Ed Note: 2009).
Per “CIGS solar producer SoloPower gets $30 million” (July 12, 2007) by Martin LaMonica at CNET news.com:
The $30 million will be used primarily to build up a 20-megawatt manufacturing facility near its Milpitas, Calif., headquarters, said company CEO Homayoun Talieh on Thursday. By the third quarter of next year, it expects to have that plant operating and delivering commercial products, he said.
SoloPower is ramping a few quarters behind the original 3Q 2008 schedule.
For additional information on SoloPower, please see
- “New Thin Film PV Start-Up SoloPower Emerges” (March 5, 2007) by Jonathan Shieber for Dow Jones VentureWire.
- “SoloPower Goes To Norse Investors For 2nd Round” (July 11, 2007) by Yuliya Chernova also for Dow Jones VentureWire.
- “Money shines on thin-film solar maker SoloPower” (September 12, 2008) by Martin LaMonica at the CNET news.com Green Tech Blog.
It’s the technology platform baby! Apologies to Austin Powers and SoloPower.