Some high-profile failures, like the collapse of Konarka last year and the near-collapse of U.K.-based G-4, have turned investors off of printed solar.
Private investment in the technology fell from $105 million in 2008 to $20 million in 2012, said Anthony Vicari, an analyst with Lux who authored the report: “Printed electronics venture funding tops $7.5 billion; islands of opportunity remain.”
“Some of the hype has finally died down,” he said.
And with good reason.
Boston-based Lux predicted two years ago that printed solar would wilt on the vine and grow to be no more than a $159 million industry by 2020.
“When you look at the whole solar industry, that’s a tiny fraction,” Vicari said. “The reasons for the forecast were the low lifetime, the cost per watt and other issues. And there has been no more improvement in the technology than predicted.”
Vicari said he believes printed solar, one of the most popular uses of advanced ink and printing technologies, is still overfunded at $20 million.
There’s little market demand for the low-efficiency and short-lived solar, Vicari said. There is a place for it in sectors that need color choices and super thin and flexible cells. But the market’s not big enough to support the hype that surrounded it, he said.
“The level of investment is much greater than the technology opportunity,” Vicari said.
While investment in printed solar is rightly plummeting, Vicari said he suspects the recent failures might have spooked investors and could cause financing issues for other more viable printed technologies.
Display technologies like electrowetting, electrochromatic and metal oxide thin-film transistors have tremendous growth potential, he said. The trouble is that investors aren’t putting their money into printed technology anymore, which means companies in this sector are going to be underfunded.
“There will probably be an increase in bankruptcies and there will be trouble for developers,” Vicari said. “But there will also be a lot of opportunity for investors.”