CIGS panel makers see biggest obstacle to success as ability to raise capital for capacity expansion; HelioVolt gets US$50M backing from South Korea's SK Group, Nanosolar, MiaSole expect manufacturing cost to be below $1/watt by 2012

Bdebbie Garcia

Bdebbie Garcia

Sep 20, 2011 – Industry Intelligence

LOS ANGELES , September 20, 2011 () – In the competitive market of solar panel makers, a newer technology appears promising but faces challenges after the collapse of California-based Solyndra LLC made investors even more wary, reported Reuters on Sept. 19.

The biggest obstacle to success for surviving manufacturers of non-silicon copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) panels is not their technology, which many industry experts claim is lower cost than the traditional solar panels.

CIGS manufactures chiefly face the challenge of raising enough capital to boost their manufacturing capacity to a competitive level and deliver their products into a market that is increasingly competitive, Reuters reported.

The solar panel market is dominated by silicon-based equipment. In the thin-film photovoltaic sector, “it’s a buyers market,” said B.J. Stanbery, founder and chairman of HelioVolt Corp.

On Monday, Texas-based HelioVolt announced that it would get help in commercializing its CIGS technology with a US$50 million investment from South Korea’s SK Group.

Expansion and cost-reduction strategies have not changed for Nanosolar Inc. and MiaSole, according to recent interviews. The companies, which are both headquartered in California, are two of the top venture-funded CIGS startups, reported Reuters.

Next year, the doubling of Nanosolar’s capacity will lower the company’s manufacturing costs below the $0.75 per watt of First Solar Inc., which uses cadmium telluride in its panels, said Brian Stone, VP of worldwide sales for Nanosolar.

However, Nanosolar needs to raise the funds for the expansion later this year. The company is not worried that Solyndra’s collapse will make financing more difficult, said Stone, who declined to specify how much money was needed, Reuters reported.

So far, Nanosolar has raised about $400 million in venture funding, while Miasole has raise more than $400 million from investors.

MiaSole expects to lower its manufacturing costs to below $1/watt by the end of this year. How this will be accomplished and when additional funding will be needed was not specified by Rob DeLine, MiaSole’s VP of marketing, who said that it would “depend on a lot of factors.”

Raising money for nearly anything in the solar manufacturing sector is more difficult now than even a month ago, said Shayle Kann, a managing director at GRM Research, reported Reuters.

The primary source of this article is Reuters, London, England, on Sept. 19, 2011.

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