Thin Film Solar Startup SoloPower CEO Replaced With Investor

solopowerlogo1Thin-film startup SoloPower announced today that CEO Homayoun Talieh has left his position, though he will remain on the company’s board of directors. The announcement came two months after Vice President of Research Rommel Noufi — whose hire SoloPower bragged about last year — exited the company and four months after Director of Operations Richard Colburn left, according to their LinkedIn profiles.

Lou DiNardo, a partner with SoloPower investor Crosslink Capital and a semiconductor-manufacturing veteran with operating experience at companies such as Analog Devices, Linear Technology and Intersil, will take over as interim president and CEO.

San Jose, Calif.-based SoloPower, which is developing copper-indium-gallium-selenide cells and panels, gave no explanation for the changes other than to say it is “accelerating into its next stage of growth as it prepares products for market introduction and nears high-volume manufacturing.”

The problem for SoloPower, like many other thin-film companies, is that it’s currently in the difficult stage of trying to reach commercial-scale manufacturing; it’s planning to build a solar-panel factory and start high-volume production next year. To build that factory, SoloPower is betting on receiving a $190 million loan guarantee, and the company said in the release this morning that the U.S. Department of Energy has selected it “for due diligence and negotiations” for a loan guarantee. That sounds like it’s reached the technical and financial viability evaluation stage of the DOE loan program, which is laudable but can take a long time. (Just look at Tesla Motors, which waited for more than two years to get its guarantee.) We’re waiting to hear back from the company on this.

SoloPower didn’t give any details about the expected size or location of its plant. It has kept fairly quiet as a whole, with only three press releases — before this one — on its web site since 2007, when it raised $30 million in its second round of financing. The news about the loan guarantee and the factory is definitely good news for the company, but doesn’t explain why it has replaced its chief with an interim CEO, and whether or not this was part of a planned change as a result of expected growth.