The dark ink flows up from the adjacent storage cabinet, filling the translucent tubing before it courses through a stainless-steel manifold that dispenses the nanoparticle solution uniformly across the moving web of microthin aluminum foil in the custom-built Nanosolar tool. As the flexible substrate continues its ascent, the stain of still-wet CIGS ink morphs constantly in mesmerizing, smoky patterns, before drying and blending into a uniform, lighter tone when the 750mm-wide foil methodically rolls out of sight into the guts of the gear. Before the web is respooled, removed from the coater, and transported to the next production sequence, a curing process dries the still-damp-to-the-touch solution covering the surface.
Before Solyndra’s trials, tribulations, and triumphs put that company in the media and industry crosshairs in recent months, the company that received the lion’s share of bête noire/tech-innovator darling attention among the emergent thin-film PV crowd was Nanosolar. Former boss Martin Roscheisen had a way of stirring the publicity pot, winding up people with his outspoken, controversial, and sometimes premature pronouncements on the inherent disruptive superiority of his company’s technology and gameplan, culminating in a prodigious outpouring of news in September 2009.
Solyndra is the biggest independent power producer winner to date in the Southern California Edison 250MW rooftop solar sweepstakes. The thin-film PV company’s heretofore unknown and still somewhat mysterious wholly owned subsidiary, Photon Solar LLC, has come through the initial competitive solicitation process and been awarded a bundle of 20-year power purchase agreement contracts to build nearly 16.2MW (DC) of rooftop PV systems at 15 commercial/industrial building sites in various locations in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Bernardino counties within the utility’s service area. Solyndra also becomes the first CIGS firm to get its panels in the pipeline of the prestigious SCE distributed-generation program.
Solyndra is the biggest independent power producer winner to date in the Southern California Edison 250MW rooftop solar sweepstakes. The thin-film PV company’s heretofore unknown and still somewhat mysterious wholly owned subsidiary, Photon Solar LLC, has come through the initial competitive solicitation process and been awarded a bundle of 20-year power purchase agreements to build nearly 16.2MW (DC) of rooftop PV systems at 15 commercial/industrial building sites in various locations in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Bernardino counties within the utility’s service area. Solyndra also becomes the first CIGS firm to get its panels in the pipeline of the prestigious SCE distributed-generation program.
When I attended the opening ceremony of SolFocus’s 1MW concentrator photovoltaics power plant at Victor Valley College in late May and wrote up an initial blog-report, not all the icing on the proverbial cake had dried. At the time, company VP Nancy Hartsoch told me that the CPV system still had to go through a “customer acceptance period” before the installation was fully online, signed off, and operational. She also said at the time that the first portion of a long-postponed 10MW project in Greece was likely to break ground in June or July.
The post-Intersolar North America debriefing continues, with analyses, observations, and exclusive information garnered at the event from across the photovoltaic technology value chain. Topics range from PV’s niche multiplicity to the growing market momentum and emerging applications space of the CIGS thin-film sector to the problem of ridiculously divergent market forecasts to a young company with a low-cost single-crystal silicon mousetrap.
It seemed like the perfect fit. Applied Materials had more experience depositing high quality silicon thin films on large glass substrates than any other company in the world. For the production of TFT LCDs, the company makes the highest performance, highest productivity PECVD tools available; it has maintained a market share of around 80% for almost the entire history of the TFT LCD industry.
The post-mortem has already begun on the news that Applied Materials would stop selling its turnkey ‘SunFab’ thin-film manufacturing lines to new customers and retrench to service and support existing customers in the short-term, while reducing but not eliminating R&D on a-Si process technology.Apart form Greentech Media’s ‘I told you so’ article, the best post-mortem analysis so far comes from Ed Korczynski, a well-known semiconductor technology journalist with credentials that include MIT, emiconductor equipment suppliers and a stint working for none other than Applied Materials.
Although no trade show can really be seen as marking a paradigm-shifting, game-changing turning point for an industry, this year’s Intersolar North America 2010 certainly benefited from good timing.
While the Federal government has been very active doling out grants, setting up tax credits, and the like—including nearly $2 billion more in loan guarantees to Abengoa and Abound announced by President Obama last week—several U.S. states have stepped up to the photovoltaic plate with lucrative programs of their own. Even if the Phillies are struggling and the Pirates are pathetic, Pennsylvania has hit another home run with its latest round of $24 million in solar energy grants, which will add another 24MW of sun-powered juice to the grid—about a buck for every watt installed across 37 projects in 16 counties.