SoloPower Pre-launches flexible CIGS Photovoltaic Modules

SoloPower SFX1-i Photovoltaic (PV) module on display at Intersolar North America.
Available second half 2010 with UL and IEC certifications pending.

Triple Bus Curve B White

SoloPower, Inc. announced the launch today of the 80 Wp (Watt-peak) SFX1-i PV module sized about 0.292 by 2.98 meter (m) and weighing in at 2.3 kilograms (kg) or 5 pounds (lbs). The SFX1-i is the first of a lightweight, flexible PV module product line to include a three times (3x) wider version, the 260 Wp SFX1-i3 module, and the twice as long 170 Wp SFX2 module. SoloPower likes to emphasize the CIGS (Copper Indium Gallium diSelenide) PV modules are produced “utilizing a low-cost, roll-to-roll electroplating process.

Here are the CIGS module specifications per SoloPower. SoloPower uses an aperture efficiency calculation since there is unused area for the front mounted junction box. Future modules will back mount the junction box.

Module Power (Wp) Width(m) Length(m) Weight (kg) Efficiency
SFX1-i 80 0.29 2.98 2.3 9.2%
SFX1-i3 260 0.88 2.98 6 10%
SFX2 170 0.29 5.84 3.6 10%

With 9.2% module efficiency, the SFX1-i module specifications are comparable to my datasheet bootleg photo in SoloPower SoloPanel at Solar Power International 09 except for the weight loss from 4.2 to 2.3 kg.

SoloPower customers have been sampling the SFX1-i and SFX1-i3 modules produced on the existing San Jose, CA USA, production line for some months. SoloPower has sought a differentiated product by offering lightweight, flexible thin film PV modules perfect for Commercial and Industrial rooftop applications like big box stores and warehouses.

I had the opportunity to speak with SoloPower CEO and President Tim Harris. Mr. Harris sees strong opportunities for BIPV (Building Integrated PhotoVoltaics) in Europe and noted France has a premium BIPV Feed-in Tariff. However, SoloPower customers are also targeting residential and even ground mounted utility scale segments.

SoloPower flexible modules can be laminated onto rooftops or utilize light non-penetrating rack mount systems with a slight tilt for added flexibility. SoloPower BOS (Balance of System) partners Shoals Technologies Group and eIQ Energy will display the SFX1-i module at their respective Intersolar North America booths this week.

Cost, Price, and CAPEX (capital expenditures)
CEO Harris said:

I am willing to say our CAPEX cost per Watt is way under a dollar and improving all the time. We have supply agreements with customers and costs defined so we clearly have an attractive market cost. And those costs continue to get better as efficiency goes up, and they are really competitive with the best out there.

I was unable to obtain any further information about module pricing or production cost.

Certifications
Mr. Harris said:

We have now completed and have passed all of the tests for the UL certification but formally they are still doing various administrative work. SoloPower was the first company to actually have rigid CIGS modules certified last summer, and we will be the first to have the flexible CIGS module certified.

Modules have been submitted for IEC certification with multiple suppliers, and multiple form factors will be submitted by the end of the month.

Efficiency Roadmap
CEO Harris said:

So at product launch 10-11% and going up at the module level. I guess my view is probably an average module will go up 1% a year maybe more like to 15% modules in three years. The approximate case is 1% per year.

I’ll be presenting data at Intersolar on Tuesday. We basically improved at the cell level efficiency about 2% in the last six (6) months. So the rate of improvement is still very strong.

Capacity Expansion
SoloPower plans to expand beyond the first 10 MW (MegaWatt) line using one (1) foot wide substrate stainless steel rolls about 1000 to 2000 feet long to a new 75 MW line using one (1) meter wide rolls 6000 feet long. [Ed. Note: It’s odd mixing units like that.]

Tim Harris said:

That one will start out at 75 MW and go to 100 MW with reasonable efficiency growth. We’ve ordered the long lead time equipment for those lines.

We’ve been in the DOE process now for a fairly substantial time and making very good progress there. That would allow us to accelerate the scale and instead of adding one line we’d add three or four lines as fast as we could physically which would give us the necessary scale to be a world class player.

SoloPowerPVRelPosterSlide7In a way though, I find concrete progress is limited since “CIGS in production mode: MiaSolé ramps commercial manufacturing, with SoloPower on the verge” by Tom Cheyney at PV-tech.org. Although long lead time equipment has been ordered for the 75 MW expansion, SoloPower modules still await final UL and IEC certifications and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Loan Guarantee Program application has not yet been approved.

Again at the February 2010 U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Program, Photovoltaic Module Reliability Workshop, Deepak Nayak, Norbert Staud, Burak Metin, Eric Lee, and Mustafa Pinarbasi from SoloPower presented the poster, “Reliability of CIGS Modules”, with data on the de-emphasized UL and IEC certified flat plate modules.

I wonder if former SoloPower CEO Homayoun Talieh keeps an eye on developments at the company he co-founded?

7 comments

  1. admin says:

    I needed to correct the SFX1-i3 and SFX2 module efficiency numbers because of a transcript error. SoloPower claims 10% aperture efficiency.

  2. ECD Fan says:

    Great write-up here. Just one more thing – SoloPower is late again. In February they claimed a “relatively fast track” to certification, “hopefully by July,” “given the combination of extensive in-house testing and that certain materials are already approved.”

    http://www.pv-tech.org/chip_shots/_a/this_aint_no_strip_mall_solopower_abandons_flat-plate_strategy_embraces_fle

    Another “milestone” missed!

    And, of course, the lack of disclosure about costs is very troubling. For SoloPower to be competitive with existing PV modules, they need to have cost of manufacturing of about $1.10-$1.40 per Watt for their 10%-efficient flexible modules (assuming the modules don’t fall apart after the first rain) given where PV module costs are right now. It is doubtful they even have a path toward such a cost structure, so the survival of the company is in doubt. None of the flexible thin-film module makers are profitable, regardless of the technology employed.

    Also, the efficiencies in the table seem a bit off. For example, SFX2′s efficiency comes to 10.0% (170/(0.29 *5.84)/1000), not 9.77%.

  3. Marion Dunnuck says:

    great job guys. Let me know when You havem for RVs for sale. Thanks and good Lock!

  4. ECD Fan says:

    That “various administrative work” in the certification process must be really overwhelming. It appears that SoloPower’s modules are not certified yet, probably because the rain kills them. Too bad – they looked nice on the picture.

  5. ECD FAN,

    Looks like SoloPower has their Certification! Happy? I know you are! He, He, He…..

    Dan

    ps. betcha cant wait to see those embeded in a roof tile form factor for residential and commercial applications…

  6. ecdfan says:

    more government money wasted? why doesnt the government just back ENER, i mean they have just announced world record efficciencies and their product is actually proven, they have a cost competitive product, will this be another solyndra ???

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