Update: Nanosolar in c-Si pivot

Under a new Swiss owner, Nanosolar GmbH, the manufacturing division of the defunct US parent company, will begin producing crystalline silicon (c-Si) modules at scale out of its German factory by the end of the year.

Having kept the name of its parent company, Nanosolar GmbH has “already initiated” preparations for its pivot away from copper, indium, gallium, selenide (CIGS) thin-film technology, a spokeswoman tells Recharge.

Yesterday California-based Nanosolar announced it will sell its factory in Luckenwalde, near Berlin, to an unnamed Swiss investor, which intends to make high-efficiency c-Si modules for the residential sector as well as its own utility-scale PV projects.

While confirming that the Luckenwalde factory had a 115MW capacity for CIGS, the spokeswoman says that following the re-start, Nanosolar GmbH will initially produce at “lower volumes but … higher-value products”.

After sharply reducing its German workforce earlier this year to about 25, Nanosolar GmbH will under its new owner double that figure by the end of the year, "with further extension potential", the spokeswoman says.

The company has not completely ruled out a return to CIGS one day, and it will continue to support its existing CIGS customers with exchange modules and technical support.

However, for now it intends to focus on “higher efficiency products which can achieved using c-Si technology”, the spokeswoman says.

The largest project commissioned using Nanosolar’s CIGS panels was a 10.6MW ground-mount array in Valencia, developed by Smartenergy Invest and Advanta Capital.

The shift from CIGS to c-Si represents yet another humiliation for a technology once – and in some quarters still – seen as having the most potential among all thin-film platforms to dethrone c-Si atop the PV sector.

Among the CIGS specialists to have shut their doors or filed for bankruptcy in recent years are Solyndra, AQT, Odersun and Soltecture. A handful of others – including MiaSolé, NuvoSun and Solibro – were acquired by other companies.

At one time a darling of the venture capital crowd, Nanosolar has operated its Germany factory for the past five years, but it never reached the scale needed to compete in the broader PV sector. The company was known to have been courting potential Asian investors in recent months, but is now scheduled to auction off its remaining assets in California next month.

“We are very excited about this new strategy for Nanosolar GmbH,” says managing director Micro Boldt.

“With our highly automated module manufacturing line and our proven experience of high quality module production we can offer our customers premium products tailored to the new era of grid-parity installations.”