Ex-Intel exec becomes president and CEO of Solyndra: expects US$400 million in revenue in 2011

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On announcing the appointment of ex-Intel executive Brian Harrison as its new president and CEO, CIGS thin-film manufacturer Solyndra expects sales to reach US$400 million in 2011. This comes on the back of its new Fab 2 facility in Fremont, California, going into production ahead of schedule this fall, the company said. The facility is expected to more than triple the company’s current output within the next year. Chris Gronet, Solyndra’s founder and current CEO, will continue to serve the company in an executive capacity and as chairman of the board.

The company also noted that its CIGS panel and mount-cost reduction roadmap is expected to enable a total system cost of goods sold of less than US$2.00 per watt by 2013. Solyndra claimed that this would mean a system-installed price competitive with retail electricity rates in key rooftop markets on a nonsubsidized basis.

Harrison previously served as president and CEO of Numonyx, B.V. and Numonyx since 2008. Before joining Numonyx, Harrison served as VP and general manager of the Flash Memory Group of Intel, where he managed all flash memory businesses. Harrison’s career at Intel included roles as VP and general manager of Intel Europe, Middle East, and Africa, where he was responsible for regional product sales and marketing, and general manager of fab/sort manufacturing, where he managed worldwide wafer production facilities.

Greentech Media claimed that the executive shuffle was caused by the withdrawal of a planned IPO and a dash for cash via new funds from Argonaut Private Equity, put at US$175 million, as the company burned cash to boost capacity. Greentech Media also noted that it believes Argonaut now has a leading hand in the company, given the financial terms of the deal.

Concerns have also been raised to PV-Tech by semiconductor industry watchers over the appointment of Harrison. Some have noted that Numonyx and previously Intel’s NOR Flash memory division were not profitable for many years and struggled to ramp next-generation technologies, such as phase-change memory. Intel got rid of the division under a major review of its operations, hoping that a combined NOR flash business with STMicroelectronics would add scale to manufacturing operations.

The recent acquisition by major memory manufacturer Micron suggests greater scale and better manufacturing execution would be required.

High-manufacturing costs at Solyndra have also been a long-standing concern, with claims that they are selling modules at a loss, further pressuring its cash-burn situation.

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