Some CIGS thin-film firms entering mainstream, says Lux Research

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With any emerging technology it is to be expected that there will be both winners and losers. According to a new report from Lux Research, few of the CIGS (copper indium gallium diselenide) thin-film manufacturers stand out, while others will find partners or wither away. According to the market research firm, 2011 was a breakout year for CIGS module shipments and installations, generating 1.2GW of demand. Lux is forecasting the CIGS market to reach 2.3GW in 2015, generating US$2.35 billion in revenue.

“Manufacturers have begun ramping meaningful capacities and there have been tremendous improvements in module efficiency,” said Pallavi Madakasira, Lux Research analyst and lead author of the report. “Now, strategic partnerships between start-ups and industrial conglomerates are likely to determine this technology’s overall viability and competitiveness.”

Following recent success with supply deals for utility-scale PV projects, Japan-based Solar Frontier (CIS) thin-film manufacturer was said to be “a clear winner, with a solid position in the ‘Dominant’ quadrant – and was the only firm to earn a ‘Strong Positive’ take.”

However, Lux noted that it expected Global Solar, Avancis and Solibro to emerge as bankable players but be consolidation targets. Considering Q-Cells financial woes, Lux said that Solibro would need to “quickly and independently strengthen its financial position to succeed.”

Lux also thinks that Stion, Miasole and Nuvosun can emerge as “champions”, though noting that success was dependent on their ability to ramp capacity and maintain high utilization rates, however, this could be said of all CIGS firms.

Other start-ups such as ISET, Flisom and AQT were seen as acquisition targets, but had strong technical values but weaker business execution scores. Global Solar, which is currently selling its PowerFLEX Technology to Dow for its shingle roof product offering, could do well but was said to need to be less conservative in its market approach. Nuvosun is also supplying Dow and has received funding from the company.

However, not all are expected to survive and the biggest challenge outside individual companies executing successfully on business plans is remaining competitive with conventional crystalline silicon technologies, whilst supporting sustainable new markets where they do not compete with crystalline silicon technologies.

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