Miasole out, Global Solar in on solar contract

Dow Chemical replaces Miasole with Global Solar on its solar roof project. Sources also say Miasole will not get its own DOE grants renewed.

Life is just not getting better for Miasole.

Dow Chemical announced Monday that it has selected Global Solar to provide copper-indium-gallium-selenide (CIGS) solar cells for its solar roofing project with the Department of Energy. Last May, the Department of Energy gave Dow a three-year, $9 million grant to develop solar roofing under the Solar America program.

Global Solar Energy replaced Dow's original CIGS solar cell provider. And who was that? Miasole.

Rumors also swirl that a three-year research grant under the Solar America program made directly Miasole is coming to an end. The company received $5.8 million in the first year of the program, which started last year, and could qualify for up to $20 million over a three-year period, assuming it met its goals. (Miasole was participating directly, and as a partner with Dow, in Solar America.). Sources close to the Energy Department, however, have said that the Miasole grant isn't being renewed.

Fifteen months ago, Miasole seemed headed for success. The company had pulled in more than $56 million in venture capital and said it was set to begin production of thin film CIGS cells in 2007. Many believed the company would be the first to come out with CIGS commercially. But by spring 2007, Miasole encountered a number of problems in bringing its products to market last year. The solar cells coming off of the company's initial production line were on average only able to convert 4 percent to 6 percent of the sunlight that struck them into electricity, below the company's 8 percent to 10 percent goal.

The company also had to lay off employees and swapped management teams.

By contrast, Global Solar moved into commercial production late last year, around the same time as Nanosolar, and says it is producing CIGS cells with 10 percent plus efficiency. Global uses evaporation techniques to deposit the CIGS materials onto film. It's less high tech than some of the processes used by Miasole and other CIGS firms, but Global likes to point out that it does work.

Again, we have not spoken to Miasole. We do not have a clear understanding why Dow switched CIGS providers and have not officially confirmed that the grant made directly to Miasole under the Solar America program will not be renewed. The Global Solar/Dow announcement, however, is somewhat unambiguous.

 

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