Or maybe, for a domestic thin-film manufacturers, there is just one way to die, and it’s a loan guarantee from the government’s Section 1705 Loan Program. Of four manufacturers that received the guarantee, one is infamous (Solyndra), one is about to declare bankruptcy (Abound Solar) and one hasn’t touched the money (1366 Technologies).
A fourth, SoloPower, will start manufacturing operations Thursday in Portland, Ore. The question in everyone’s minds: Will it survive this perceived kiss of death?
The commencement of manufacturing, according to Reuters, places SoloPower one step closer to accessing the $197 million loan it secured from the government. First, the article says, the company must meet “undisclosed milestones” before it can draw from the government loan. In the meantime, it will rely on more than $200 million in private investments to begin turning a profit.
The company will begin “fab-style” production of CIGS-based photovoltaic cells. The CIGS, or copper indium gallium selenide, cells are then packaged into flexible, lightweight modules that require less balance-of-system hardware and are easier to install than traditional solar panels, the company says.
In an effort to distinguish SoloPower from Solyndra, which also produced thin-film but used it in a different manner, CEO Tim Harris is paraphrased in Reuters:
[The company is] pointed squarely at commercial and industrial rooftops that can’t support traditional panels, according to Harris, who said half of the buildings in the world can’t bear the weight of heavy, rigid panels made with silicon. This includes many of the buildings that house warehouses and big box retailers, Harris said.
He continues to say that the company has more demand than capacity.
The Section 1705 Loan Program authorizes loan guarantees for U.S.-based projects that commenced construction no later than Sept. 30, 2011, and involve certain renewable energy systems, according to the Department of Energy.
SoloPower will manufacture these five products, as described by the company:
- SoloPanel SF1 and SP1, optimized for twelve-inch and sixteen-inch standing-seam metal roof integration.
- SoloPanel SP3L and SP3S, large format modules optimized for commercial and industrial low-slope building applications.
- SoloSaddle, a non-penetrating kit designed to easily integrate the SP3S into membrane based roofing systems. A low-slope curve provides self-cleaning and high performance in hot climates.
- SoloWedge, a non-penetrating kit designed to easily integrate the SP3L into membrane based roofing systems. A five-degree slope provides self-cleaning and maximum performance in cold climates.
- SoloBridge, a non-penetrating kit designed to easily integrate the SP3L into metal roofing systems.
Leading private investors in the company include Hudson Clean Energy Partners, Crosslink Capital, Convexa and Firsthand. It also has received loans, funding and incentives from Portland and the state of Oregon, the article says.