Nanosolar is now selling off its solar assets

QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8Nanosolar is winding itself down as the once-promising thin film solar startup sells off its German assembly factory to an unnamed Swiss investor, and is holding an auction for the rest of its assets in August.

*** From the “Crew” at GenesisNanoTechnology. ***
 Another thin-film based solar energy company “rides off into the sunset,” finding the current-day economics of the solar industry incompatible with a sustainable business model (based on technologies that are expensive to manufacture and have unsustainably low efficiencies).
We hate to say it … but we told you so. So does this mean our lofty goal (dream) of supplying abundant, cheap, accessible (renewable) energy to the “world” is toast? We think not. As we look into the future, specifically the future of energy and the energy needs for our “blue (green) planet”, we see quite the opposite.
We will in fact, need more energy than can be supplied by current carbon based sources. In fact, to solve most of the BIG problems facing our world in the next ten, twenty, fifty and hundred years (population, hunger, water, food supply, disease, health care) our mission will need to be focused on how to advance renewable technologies and ultimately … make our renewable, clean sources of energy COST LESS.
But how do we do that? What are some of the most promising technologies out there that can not only ‘complete but beat’ fossil (carbon) based energy sources? We believe the answer is, as Dr. Rick Smalley (Smalley Institute; Rice University; Nobel Prize Winner) maintains, “We need to make small things … do big things.” Nanotechnology.
“What If” … what if there were technologies that used non-toxic (green), inexpensive materials to manufacture very inexpensively, an inexhaustible source of highly efficient (24/7 – 365) solar cells? 
Dr. Wade Adams, Associate Dean of the School of Engineering at Rice University, passionately explains what nanotechnology is and why it is fundamental to solving many of the world’s most pressing challenges. Watch this video by Dr. Wade Adams.
As always, we appreciate your comments and your feed back.  BWH/ GNT
See the Article on Nanosolar below.

Time is up for eleven-year-old thin film startup Nanosolar: the company is now selling off its assets.

Following layoffs, a low-valuation financing last year, and other struggles, Nanosolar is selling off its German panel assembly factory to an unnamed Swiss investor, and is bringing in help from Heritage and Maynards to hold an auction to sell off the rest of its technology assets, which will take place on August 13.

Nanosolar didn’t disclose the price of the deal of the German panel factory, nor the name of the Swiss investor, but a spokesperson told me that more information about the acquirer would be disclosed after the deal is closed. During the auction next month Nanosolar will attempt to sell off its solar production and manufacturing equipment and all related capital assets at its factory in San Jose, California.

Nanosolar German plant

The Swiss investor is buying “Nanosolar GmbH,” which a spokesperson tells me is the module manufacturing division of Nanosolar and was created in 2008. The Swiss investor will use the Luckenwalde factory to make something called a “cSi solar panel,” which they wouldn’t disclose much about.

While the Luckenwalde factory was being used for solar panel assembly under Nanosolar, it will now be used to manufacture solar modules, said a spokesperson. Nanosolar GmbH will also still keep the capability to assemble CIGS based panels, said a spokesperson.

As Nanosolar looks to sell off its assets, it also faces at least one lawsuit. According to a filing, the company is being sued by a vendor (Hellmann Worldwide Logistics) for allegedly not paying its bills. This is after reports surfaced that Nanosolar had cut as much as 75 percent of its staff earlier this year and raised $70 million from investors in 2o12, reportedly at a pre-money valuation of $50 million.

According to a release about the upcoming auction this morning, companies can learn more at the Intersolar conference in San Francisco on Wednesday:

Interested bidders are invited to visit the Heritage Global Partners booth #8636 for more information regarding Nanosolar’s assets during the InterSolar North America Conference July 9-11 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

At one point Nanosolar was valued at $2 billion, and the company has taken in at least $450 million in investment since its start in 2002. Nanosolar has been making thin solar panels out of a material called copper-indium-gallium-selenide (CIGS). Nanosolar investors have  included OnPoint Technologies, Mohr Davidow Ventures, Ohana Holdings, Family Offices, AES, the Carlyle Group, French utility EDF and Energy Capital Partners, Lone Pine Capital, the Skoll Foundation, Pierre Omidyar’s fund, GLG Partners, Beck Energy, Grazia Equity, Benchmark Capital, as well as way back in the day, the Google guys, Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

At one time in Silicon Valley, CIGS was thought to be the future of solar and startups like Solyndra, Heliovolt, Miasole, and others raised hundreds of millions of dollars to build the next-generation of solar tech. But the price of silicon-based solar dropped dramatically and made the economics of selling more expensive CIGS panels much more difficult. Most of these companies have gone bankrupt, done major layoffs, retrenched or been sold off in fire sales.

Nanosolar is winding itself down as the once-promising thin film solar startup sells off its German assembly factory to an unnamed Swiss investor, and is holding an auction for the rest of its assets in August.


Antifreeze materials, nanoparticle inks may lead to low-cost solar energy

QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8(Nanowerk News) A process combining some comparatively  cheap materials and the same antifreeze that keeps an automobile radiator from  freezing in cold weather may be the key to making solar cells that cost less and  avoid toxic compounds, while further expanding the use of solar energy.
And when perfected, this approach might also cook up the solar  cells in a microwave oven similar to the one in most kitchens.
Engineers at Oregon State University have determined that  ethylene glycol, commonly used in antifreeze products, can be a low-cost solvent  that functions well in a “continuous flow” reactor – an approach to making  thin-film solar cells that is easily scaled up for mass production at industrial  levels.
The research, just published in Material Letters (“Continuous flow mesofluidic synthesis of Cu2ZnSnS4 nanoparticle  inks”), a professional journal, also concluded this approach will work with  CZTS, or copper zinc tin sulfide, a compound of significant interest for solar  cells due to its excellent optical properties and the fact these materials are  cheap and environmentally benign.
Nanoparticles in Solar Cell
These  copper zinc tin sulfide nanoparticles help form a solar cell that could cost  less and perform well.
“The global use of solar energy may be held back if the  materials we use to produce solar cells are too expensive or require the use of  toxic chemicals in production,” said Greg Herman, an associate professor in the  OSU School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering. “We need  technologies that use abundant, inexpensive materials, preferably ones that can  be mined in the U.S. This process offers that.”
By contrast, many solar cells today are made with CIGS, or  copper indium gallium diselenide. Indium is comparatively rare and costly, and  mostly produced in China. Last year, the prices of indium and gallium used in  CIGS solar cells were about 275 times higher than the zinc used in CZTS cells.
The technology being developed at OSU uses ethylene glycol in  meso-fluidic reactors that can offer precise control of temperature, reaction  time, and mass transport to yield better crystalline quality and high uniformity  of the nanoparticles that comprise the solar cell – all factors which improve  quality control and performance.
This approach is also faster – many companies still use “batch  mode” synthesis to produce CIGS nanoparticles, a process that can ultimately  take up to a full day, compared to about half an hour with a continuous flow  reactor. The additional speed of such reactors will further reduce final costs.
“For large-scale industrial production, all of these factors –  cost of materials, speed, quality control – can translate into money,” Herman  said. “The approach we’re using should provide high-quality solar cells at a  lower cost.”
The performance of CZTS cells right now is lower than that of  CIGS, researchers say, but with further research on the use of dopants and  additional optimization it should be possible to create solar cell efficiency  that is comparable.
Source: Oregon State University 

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Watching solar cells grow

201306047919620(Nanowerk News) For the first time, a team of  researchers at the Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin (HZB) led by Dr. Roland Mainz and  Dr. Christian Kaufmann has managed to observe growth of high-efficiency  chalcopyrite thin film solar cells in real time and to study the formation and  degradation of defects that compromise efficiency. To this end, the scientists  set up a novel measuring chamber at the Berlin electron storage ring BESSY II,  which allows them to combine several different kinds of measuring techniques.  Their results show during which process stages the growth can be accelerated and  when additional time is required to reduce defects. Their work has now been  published online in Advanced Energy Materials (“Formation of CuInSe2 and  CuGaSe2 Thin-Films Deposited by Three-Stage  Thermal Co-Evaporation: A Real-Time X-Ray Diffraction and Fluorescence  Study”).

Today’s chalcopyrite thin film cells based on copper indium  gallium selenide are already reaching efficiencies of more than 20 percent. For  the fabrication of the extremely thin polycrystalline layers, the process of  coevaporation has lead to the best results so far: During coevaporation, two  separate elements are evaporated simultaneously, first indium (or gallium) and  selenium, then copper and selenium, and, finally, indium (or gallium) and  selenium again. This way, a thin film of crystals forms, which exhibit only a  small number of defects. “Until recently, we did not fully understand what  exactly happens during this coevaporation process,” says Dr. Roland Mainz of the  HZB’s Institute of Technology. The team of physicists worked for three years  using on-site and real-time measurements to find an answer to this question.

id31067_1Polycrystalline film growth during coevaporation in real time using in situ  X-ray diffraction and fluorescence analysis. (Figure: R. Mainz/C.Kaufmann/HZB)

Novel experimental chamber constructed

For these measurements they constructed a new kind of  experimental chamber, which allows for an analysis of polycrystalline  chalcopyrite film formation during coevaporation when exposed to synchrotron  light at BESSY II. In addition to the evaporation sources for the elements, this  vacuum chamber contains heating and cooling elements to control the evaporative  process. According to Mainz, “one of the main challenges was adjusting the  chamber, which weighs around 250 kilograms, with an accuracy of 10 micrometer.”  Because of thermal expansion during evaporation, the height has to be  automatically re-adjusted every few seconds.

Combination of x-ray diffraction and fluorescence analysis  

With this setup, for the first time worldwide they were able to  observe polycrystalline film growth using in situ X-ray diffraction and  fluorescence analysis during coevaporation in real time. “We are now able to see  how crystalline phases form and transform and when defects form during the  different stages of evaporation. “But we’re also able to tell when these defects  disappear again.” This takes place in the second process stage, when copper and  selenium are evaporated. Excess copper, which deposits at the surface in the  form of copper selenide helps to remove defects. “This was already known before  from previous experiments. But now, using fluorescence signals and numeric model  calculations, we are able to show how copper selenide penetrates the copper  indium selenide layer,” Mainz explains. Here clear-cut differences between  copper indium selenide and copper gallium selenide layers became apparent: While  copper is able to penetrate the copper-indium-selenide layer, in the case of  copper-gallium-selenide, which is otherwise pretty similar, it remains at the  surface. This could be one possible reason for why the use of pure copper  gallium selenide does not yield high efficiency solar cells.

id31067 2

Concrete steps for optimization
“We now know that for further optimization of the process it is  important to concentrate on the transition point into the copper-rich phase. Up  to now the process was performed very slowly throughout all stages to give  defects enough time to disappear. Our findings suggest that the process can be  accelerated at some stages and that it is sufficient to slow it down only at  points where defects are efficiently eliminated,” explains Mainz. Mainz is  already looking forward to future project EMIL, which is currently being set up  at BESSY II. Here even more powerful tools will become available for the study  of complex processes during growth of new types of solar cells in situ and in  real time.
Source: Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin

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More CIGS Solar Casualties: Global Solar Energy and ISET

QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8Global Solar, now defunct, was once a CIGS manufacturer in full-scale production on a flexible substrate.

Eric Wesoff: December 1, 2012

Global Solar Energy was a CIGS flexible thin-film solar vendor notable for its small but real production volumes of eleven percent efficient solar cell product.

According to Inside Tucson Business, Tucson-based Global Solar Energy has laid off about 95 of its employees and ceased operations. The company had a product line of portable solar charging equipment, flexible modules and building integrated PV (BIPV). Global Solar had been selling CIGS products on a flexible substrate for more than eight years.

The firm was founded almost twenty years ago by UniSource Energy and ITN Energy Systems. Solon acquired Global Solar for $16 million in 2006.

The plummeting cost of crystalline silicon solar panels from China has eroded the value proposition of CIGS thin-film solar which has so far failed to meet its promises of low cost and competitive efficiency.

GTM Research has these estimates for CIGS solar production numbers in 2011:

  • Solar Frontier, 577 megawatts
  • Solibro, 95 megawatts (Sold to Hanergy)
  • MiaSolé, 60 megawatts (Sold to Hanergy)
  • Solyndra, 40 megawatts (Bankrupt)
  • Avancis, 25 megawatts
  • Global Solar, 19 megawatts (Now selling only consumer solar products)
  • Soltecture, 14 megawatts (Bankrupt)
  • Nanosolar, 10 megawatts


Other CIGS casulaties include AQT which closed its doors in August.

All these CIGS vendors use vastly different technical approaches, but seemingly almost all will have similar fates — either closing shop or selling at a loss to an Asian rescuer. MiaSolé found Hanergy, HelioVolt found SK Innovations, Ascent Solar found its own white knight in TFG Radiant.

Solar Frontier, the leader in CIGS production sells 12 percent efficiency modules.

Solar Frontier, Stion, SoloPower, TSMC, NuvoSun, Nanosolar and a few others CIGS players are soldiering on in this materials system but still don’t meet the price and performance of silicon photovoltaics. Nanosolar recently shipped more than 10 megawatts of CIGS solar to an installation in Valencia, Spain

Another CIGS aspirant, ISET, a firm we covered in 2010, was seen to be auctioning off some manufacturing equipment. Upon inquiring with ISET executive Vincent Kapur, we received this statement.

“ISET is in the process of launching a new spinoff, Pioneer PV Solutions, focused on growing into a Tier 1 supplier of microsolar components to OEM’s. Our sprayable CIGS with monolithic integration provides customization capability along with superior quality, yield, scalability, aesthetics, diffuse-light performance, and pricing than c-Si scrap wafers…Our existing prototype line (batch) is ready to be replaced by Gen 2 (inline) now that our process specs are well defined. ISET’s R&D function will be relocated separately from the new Pioneer PV effort.”

The firm will build small solar panels for integration into battery chargers and for DC power applications — the same market once pursued by Global Solar.

Solar Panel Makers Need Equipment Upgrades to Survive Shakeout

With overcapacity of 82%, companies need innovative tools to differentiate from cheaper Chinese rivals, says Lux Research.

English: Thin-film PV array

English: Thin-film PV array (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BOSTON, Oct 25, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Reeling from a glut of production capacity, makers of solar panels need to acquire innovative production equipment in order to cut costs, increase margins, and offer differentiated products, according to Lux Research.

This year, global capacity utilization is at 55% for crystalline silicon (x-Si) module production, 70% for cadmium telluride (CdTe) and 80% for copper indium gallium (di) selenide (CIGS). Consequently, cell and module manufacturers are turning to core product differentiation to revamp margins and fend off low-cost Chinese competition.

“Across the industry there is recognition that innovation is needed to survive a shakeout,” said Fatima Toor, Lux Research Analyst and the lead author of the report titled, “Turning Lemons into Lemonade: Opportunities in the Turbulent Photovoltaic Equipment Market.” “Equipment suppliers have a vital role to play in enabling that innovation.”

Lux Research analysts examined the PV production equipment landscape to identify opportunities for innovation. Among their findings:

— There’s opportunity in reducing silicon costs. Current wafer sawing techniques waste silicon; in contrast, technologies, such as direct solidification and epitaxial silicon eliminate the need for wafer sawing. Emerging quasi-monocrystalline silicon (qc-Si) ingot growth enables 40% cheaper c-Si wafers.

— In CIGS, standardization is key. CIGS thin-film PV relies on custom equipment today. However, off-the-shelf tools and improved throughput will drive higher efficiencies, performance and yield – lowering capex and helping manufacturers attain scale and competitive production costs.

— New cell designs lead to equipment upgrades. Emerging cell designs, such as selective emitter (SE) and heterojunction with intrinsic thin layer (HIT) present potential for high efficiencies. However, they require new tools, and as a result, 60% to 70% of new equipment sales are for the cell production equipment.

The report, titled “Turning Lemons into Lemonade: Opportunities in the Turbulent Photovoltaic Equipment Market,” is part of the Lux Research Solar Components Intelligence service.

About Lux Research

Lux Research provides strategic advice and on-going intelligence for emerging technologies. Leaders in business, finance and government rely on us to help them make informed strategic decisions. Through our unique research approach focused on primary research and our extensive global network, we deliver insight, connections and competitive advantage to our clients. Visit for more information.

SOURCE: Lux Research

Note To Readers: We have been following a ‘disruptive nanotechnology’ company, researching and developing a ‘3rd Generation’ of solar cells based in part on low-cost quantum dots and reduced input cost printing techniques. Below is a short excerpt from a website, a link also provided below. Perhaps, with innovation such as this, the U.S. Solar industry can become the clear leader in providing grid competitive renewable energy. Perhaps ….        Cheers!  – BWH-

Solterra Renewable Technologies

“Solterra will be producing and distributing a Thin Film Quantum Dot PV Solar Cell which is differentiated from other PV cells by a unique technology that results in lower cost, higher efficiency, and broader spectral performance.  Solterra’s Quantum Dot Solar Cell achieves a dramatically lower manufacturing cost per watt because no vacuum equipment is required, no expensive silicon is required and low-cost screen printing and/or inkjet techniques are used on inexpensive substrates. Secondly, the Solterra Thin Film Quantum Dot Solar Cell has the potential to generate multiple excitons from each proton providing the potential for exponential improvements in conversion efficiency. Third, Solterra’s PV cell is not only more efficient in the early morning and late afternoon compared to crystalline silicon PV cells, but it also has the potential to harvest light energy in the infrared and ultraviolet spectra.