Thin film solar maker HelioVolt could be a contender for the chronoptimist crown. Earlier this year, the Austin, Texas-based company pushed back shipping its commercial thin film solar material until at least early 2010 (with production to start “in the second of 2009”) while its CEO, Founder BJ Stanbery, stepped down. Can it break the logjam with a new CEO with a First Solar pedigree?
This morning, HelioVolt says former First Solar COO Jim Flanary will join the company as its new CEO. HelioVolt says Flanary has years of solar manufacturing experience, particularly during “a critical scale-up phase” at First Solar and was responsible for implementing “core manufacturing process methodologies that allowed First Solar to rapidly scale.” The new chief’s First Solar experience will be put to work dealing with substantial delays: HelioVolt previously expected to start operations in 2008, with sales of its solar products to kick off early this year. NanoSolar, which makes a competitive thin film solar product, started production in December of 2007.
While it’s not uncommon for startups to bring in a new CEO for the commercial stage, it comes at a time when a number of solar upstarts, including HelioVolt, are taking steps to cut costs and even rethink their business plans. Earlier this year, local media reported that HelioVolt laid off about 15 workers. If the company doesn’t start making a product it can sell (i.e., bringing in revenue) soon, the next few years could be even more difficult. The company doesn’t lack funding to get there, either, having raised $130 million in venture financing over the past couple of years.