Ascent Solar plans China factory

US flexible thin-film PV specialist Ascent Solar said it plans to build a factory in China after forming a joint venture with a municipal authority there.

Ascent – which produces modules based on copper, indium, gallium, selenide (CIGS) technology – has signed a framework agreement with of the Municipal City of Suqian in Jiangsu Province.

The US PV group said it will own up to 80% of a planned joint venture with Suqian, which will see a production facility set up on an industrial park.

Ascent will put in about $1.6m cash, along with access to its IP and some equipment from its Colorado facility.

Suqian will sink about $32m into the venture, as well as giving it rent-free use of the factory.

The planned JV would see the flowering of a long-held aim by Ascent to establish an Asian factory.

That was quickly named as a key ambition of Singapore/Chinese-owned  TFG Radiant, which has bought major stakes in Ascent over the last few years.

Like others operating in the niche areas of the PV sector, Ascent has found the steep cost fall of crystalline silicon (c-Si) equipment tough to compete with.

In early 2011, as the full extent of the c-Si price decline became clear, the company announced a major strategic shift, abandoning the building-integrated PV space to focus on specialist markets like mobile phone chargers, the transportation sector and military applications.