Summary:

Beleaguered solar startup Nanosolar has opened up the auction of its assets and solar manufacturing equipment. The fate is similar to many next-gen solar manufacturing startups, and represents large losses for investors.

Nanosolar auction

A company that years ago was an example of Silicon Valley’s interest in investing in the next-generation of solar manufacturing, is now auctioning off its assets at bargain basement prices. On Tuesday morning the auction for eleven-year-old Nanosolar’s technology and assets officially kicked-off, offering up items like sputtering, coating and deposition machines, scanning electron microscopes, and basic lab and office equipment.

Nanosolar auctionThere are some valuable items in the auction like a brand new nano-machinery device going for $1.8 million that fellow manufacturing firms might find attractive. But there’s also a lot of low cost used office and lab technology that is being offered for just tens and hundreds of dollars.

Nanosolar is already in the process of selling off its German assembly factory to an unnamed Swiss investor, but which I’d speculate is Nanosolar’s investor Aeris Capital. Going forward that factory, in Luckenwalde, Germany, will likely make silicon solar panels, instead of the next-gen ones that Nanosolar was making out of the material combination copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS).

Nanosolar auctionNanosolar is just one of dozens of startups that years ago made a bet that next-gen thin film CIGS panels would be the future of solar panels. The idea was that the price of silicon would go up and CIGS (which contain little to no silicon) would be cheaper than the standard silicon panel. But instead of the price rising, the price of silicon dropped, bringing silicon solar panels to the cheapest point in history, and making them far cheaper than CIGS panels. Many venture capitalists backed these thin film CIGS solar manufacturing startups and most of them are now struggling.

Nanosolar raised at least $450 million since 2002 and at one point Nanosolar was valued at $2 billion. Investors have included OnPoint Technologies, Mohr Davidow Ventures, Ohana Holdings, Family Offices, AES, the Carlyle Group, French utility EDF and Energy Capital Partners, Lone Pine Capital, the Skoll Foundation, Pierre Omidyar’s fund, GLG Partners, Beck Energy, Grazia Equity, Benchmark Capital, as well as way back in the day, the Google guys, Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

The auction lasts until Wednesday, August 14. Solyndra, another CIGS solar startup, also held an auction of its assets in late 2011.

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