Solexant is the latest thin film solar startup to line up some nice government subsidies for building a new factory. I wrote about its basic plan for a 100-megawatt plant near Portland, Ore., in today’s DailyFinance.
Before I wrote the story, I asked Solexant’s CEO Damoder Reddy for more information about the company, particularly since I saw his presentation at a Dow Jones conference last December. At the time, Damoder said his startup had just completed a 2-megawatt pilot line and raised two rounds totaling $22.5 million. The company had 34 employees plus six contractors.
The company, which has since raised a new round of $41.5 million, is using a rather novel technology first developed at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. The process involves printing cadmium-telluride nanocrystals on rolls of flexible metal foil. This method is different from the cadmium-telluride solar panels made by First Solar, which deposits cadmium-telluride on sheets of glass. The roll-to-roll process is supposed to be faster – and presumably cheaper – than putting materials on pieces of glass in a conveyor belt-kind of process.
I asked Damoder by email about the size of the panels rolling out of the pilot line and their efficiencies. A pilot line is where you test your manufacturing process to make sure it’s sound enough for you to start mass production. It’s also where you assess whether the solar panels could hit the efficiencies you were expecting when you were in the research and development stages.
Damoder was coy. Well, he was willing to divulge that the pilot line is producing 1.2 square-meter panels. But he wouldn’t tell me the power rating of the panels or any efficiency numbers. He wrote that the factory in Oregon would roll out 2-square-meter panels with over 200-watt of power ratings after it starts mass production (a factory takes time, usually about 6-9 months, to go from initial production to mass production).
At the Dow Jones conference, Damoder said he was expecting the pilot line to produce panels with more than 10 percent efficiencies. He also showed a chart projecting some sort of savings if a project developer decided to pick Solexant’s panels over First Solar’s. The chart showed that a 10-megawatt power project would require 106,000 First Solar panels but only 33,660 Solexant panels. The cost would be $1.5 million versus $900,000.
During the first quarter of this year, First Solar was churning out panels with 11.1 efficiency, at a manufacturing cost of $0.81 per watt.