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.


Nanosolar CEO, Eugenia Corrales

QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8A new CEO at the CIGS thin film solar firm

Eric Wesoff: January 19, 2012


Last week we reported that Brian Stone, a VP at Nanosolar, had left the firm.

Today, the personnel shifts continued at the CIGS thin film solar vendor.

Geoff Tate, CEO for about two years, has been replaced by Eugenia Corrales, who will assume the position immediately.

According to a press release, Tate recruited Corrales in May 2010 to serve as the EVP of engineering and operations. The release continues, “Ms. Corrales held a number of executive positions, including several years as a Vice President at Cisco, where she ran all of Product Operations for Cisco-branded products. She was previously responsible for Manufacturing Operations of $7B in router, switching and optical product revenue.  Prior to Cisco, Corrales spent 11 years in engineering and R&D management at HP. Prior to joining Nanosolar, she was founder and VP of engineering of two cleantech startups. She holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Grinnell College and a master’s in mechanical engineering from Stanford University.”

Nanosolar has had a history of technical and commercial promises, most recently these relating to cost:

  • Below $1.00 per watt factory cost by the end of 2011
  • Low $0.80s or high $0.70s per watt by late 2012
  • In the $0.60s in 2013
  • Below $0.60 per watt in 2014

Nanosolar produced 2.5 megawatts of panels in 2010. The firm has only shipped a cumulative total of 10 megawatts in its history.

The firm has suggested that it will ship megawatts measuring in the “triple digits” in 2012. Cell production capacity was to be 115 megawatts at the end of 2011, and the next step jumps the firm to 250 megawatts of cell capacity at the San Jose facility. Panel assembly is performed at Nanosolar’s factory in Luckenwalde, Germany.
The firm is shipping 10-percent-efficiency panels today with a target of 12 percent efficiency this year. Expectations are for 13 percent in 2013 and 14 percent in 2014. However, attaining a 4-percentage-point increase in efficiency in the space of four years would be an unprecedented feat never before achieved by any solar firm.

The company is focused solely on utility-scale deployments. Its large utility-size panels are currently rated at 200 watts, with additional output gains expected as efficiency rises.

Nanosolar also announced that it has signed long-term supply agreements for up to one gigawatt of PV panels with Belectric of Kolitzheim, Germany; EDF Energies Nouvelles of Paris, France; and Plain Energy of Munich, Germany.

Take that “long-term supply agreement” lingo with a grain of salt, however. These contracts are not binding, are not take-or-pay, and are predicated on Nanosolar’s ability to achieve its cost and efficiency targets as promised. Still, although those agreements don’t translate as real backlog, they do translate to patient customers who appear willing to work with Nanosolar. Nanosolar, as a new supplier without a field performance track record, employs module warranty insurance to help financiers and customers feel comfortable and improve the firm’s bankability.

Ed Gunther reported on a number of other promises made by the company at a recent solar event.

An investor in Nanosolar I spoke with recently still maintains that Nanosolar is one of the few firms that can give First Solar and the Chinese c-Si vendors a run for their money.

Nanosolar will also have to raise large amounts of funding in the short term, a difficult situation in the post-Solyndra CIGS era and a challenging task for the new CEO.