Intersolar Roundup: Shading Solutions, Thin-Film News and Awards

Some 60,000 solar insiders from around the world have gathered in Munich this week for the annual Intersolar conference. As prices for solar panels fall and solar developers face financing challenges in the economic downturn, Markus Elsässer, CEO of Solar Promotion, one of the two organizers of Intersolar 2009, positioned this as a year of innovation for the solar industry: “We have seen countless new and highly innovative products and systems in the run-up to the show,” he said in a release.

Here’s a roundup of some news items from the show so far:

Masdar PV, a wholly owned solar subsidiary of Masdar, the Abu Dhabi cleantech initiative, unveiled its thin-film solar panels at Intersolar this week. The company claims the panels, which include a double layer of amorphous silicon, are 10 percent more efficient at converting sunlight into electricity than regular single-layer amorphous-silicon panels. Masdar PV plans to use a SunFab manufacturing line from Applied Materials (s AMAT), which is currently being installed near Erfurt, Germany, to mass-produce the panels.

• After postponing its initial public offering last year, German solar manufacturer Schott Solar could be ready to try again in three to six months. Reuters reported Thursday that Juergen Kaiser-Gerwens, the company’s chief financial officer, said at an Intersolar press conference that the company would be ready for an IPO in that time frame if the market situation improves. CEO Martin Heming told Reuters that IPO conditions are looking up, and he expects the solar market to improve in the second half of this year.

• Frankfurt-based solar developer Sinosol Group on Wednesday signed a deal to buy 34 megawatts of micromorph thin-film panels from Taiwan-based Auria Solar Co. Auria began producing micromorph panels last year using thin-film manufacturing equipment from Oerlikon, and plans to expand its manufacturing capacity to 60 megawatts annually by the end of this year. Under the contract, Auria will supply Sinosol with panels until 2011.

• Roseville, Calif.-based solar integrator Solar Power Inc. said Wednesday it has inked a deal with Global Energy Services, a startup founded by basketball player Peja Stojakovic, a forward for the New Orleans Hornets. The company plans to bring Solar Power products to Greece and the Balkans.

• Germany-based AZUR Solar on Wednesday presented a self-cleaning and self-repairing coating for solar cells. The company says the coating, which is water-repellent, flows to any area of damage — such as scratches caused by sandstorms in the desert — and seals it, hardening in a few hours. The company claims its coating will lengthen the life of solar panels, keeping them operating at 98 percent efficiency after 20 years, instead of the usual 80 percent.

Rainbow Solar Inc., which has created a transparent solar window that Popular Science recommended for greening the White House, on Wednesday announced it has developed a solar technology, called SuperPV, that it claims boosts the power generation of silicon-based solar cells by 60 percent to 200 percent. The company disclosed no details about how the technology works in its press release, but included some charts showing the enhanced power output and a recommendation from Japanese photovoltaic scientist Shozo Yanagida. The testimony suggested that one advantage is that SuperPV helps keep panels cool, making them more efficient.

• Munich-based startup MX Group has unveiled a prototype device, called SPIM, that enables solar panels to inform a central server of its electrical output, to let it know of any malfunctions and to make it aware if it’s been stolen. The company is introducing the prototypes, made at a pilot plant, to testers for demonstration purposes.

• Intersolar on Wednesday announced its winners for the annual Intersolar Award. The photovoltaic companies it picked as most innovative include: Aerowest, a German company with software that calculates the irradiation potential of different roof areas; U.S. chip manufacturer National Semiconductor, for its SolarMagic microinvertersdevices, which optimize the power output from each solar panel in a system; and German solar manufacturer Solon, for its solar roofing-tile system. In the solar-thermal category, winners were: Australian company NEP Solar, which makes a parabolic trough system using a light polymer foam instead of metal; German-based RESOL — Elektronische Regelunger, which has developed a control sensor for solar-thermal systems; and German-based Ritter Energie- und Umwelttecknik & Co., which has developed an air- and water-heating system that includes high-efficiency solar-thermal storage.

• Reducing partial-shading losses is certainly a trend at Intersolar this year. And no wonder, with Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker National Semiconductor finding that less than 10 percent shading can cut electricity production in half. The company this week announced the availability of its partial-shading solution, a micro-inverter power-optimizer system called SolarMagic that the company launched last year.

• Herzliya, Israel-based SolarEdge, which has developed electronics to monitor solar cells and maximize their production even in partial shade, announced Wednesday that BP Solar plans to integrate the electronics into its panels.

• In advance of Intersolar’s kickoff, Los Gatos, Calif.-based Tigo Energy said Tuesday that it had raised $10 million in venture funding from ICV, Matrix Partners, OVP and Clal Energy. The startup has developed a system that uses nodes in each solar panel to monitor and adjust the solar array, reducing the disproportionate amount of electricity production that is usually lost when, say, a cloud passes overhead.