Ascent Solar Inks CIGS Film Deal – September 24, 2009
Under the contract, the Thornton, Colo.-based Ascent (NSDQ: ASTI)would deliver up to 67 megawatts of its copper-indium-gallium-selenide(CIGS) solar panels over a five-year period starting in 2010. TurtleEnergy, based in Linden, N.J., installs solar energy systems in the residential and commercial market.
The deal is a big boost to Ascent, which was spun off by a technology incubator ITN Energy Systems and went public in 2006. The company has generated revenues largely through research and development contracts with government agencies such as the U.S. Air Force ResearchLaboratory and NASA.
Ascent also has product development agreements with companies in the past, and TurtleEnergy is one of them. Others include Spain-based Texas and France-based Icopal, both makers of roofing materials.
Earlier this year, Ascent said it was shipping panels from its pilot line to these partners, who would test the products and decide if they want to buy them.
CIGS solar panels make up a tiny share of the overall solar market, which is dominated by silicon-based products. CIGS proponents say their solar panels can work just well and sell for less, though many of CIGScompanies are still in the early stages of commercialization.
Unlike some other CIGS companies that use metal or glass as a substrate, Ascent uses plastic. Plastic solar panels could be cheaper than metal and cost less to ship than glass-based panels. Metal also could introduce impurities into the CIGS materials.
But plastic solar panels could have trouble withstanding high temperatures during production and while under the sun.
Ascent said its plastic is durable, and it has figured out a way to streamline solar panel production into one continuous process by using plastic. Other CIGS companies make the cells, and then cut and sort them into batches for assembling them into panels.
Ascent hopes its flexible products could make them more attractive to builders and architects who don’t want the heavy, conventional silicon or other types of glass solar panels that are more common on the market today.
The company also is finding interest in consumer electronics makers. Yesterday, Ascent said it had signed a sales deal with Provo, Utah-based Goal Zero, which makes portable chargers.
Under the deal with Goal Zero, Ascent would ship 30,700 of its panels customized for Goal Zero’s products.