Despite raising managing to raise funding earlier this year, Silicon Valley solar startup AQT Solar is reportedly looking to sell its assets and intellectual property, according to VentureWire. It’s not an uncommon refrain for startup solar manufacturers these days. (Here’s some ways for solar startups to try to survive in this market).
Founded in 2007, AQT set off to build thin film solar cells out of the material copper, indium, gallium and selenide (CIGS). The thesis at the time was that silicon — the main ingredient in traditional solar panels — was expensive, so CIGS panels would be cheaper because they used little or no silicon. CIGS panels could also be made very thinly and could be flexible so they could be put in new locations, like built into roofs and the side of buildings.
Back in 2007 a whole slew of companies had the same goal — Nanosolar, Solyndra, Miasole and HelioVolt. Venture capitalists put a collective billions of dollars into these firms. But instead of the price of silicon going up, it went down dramatically, and many of these companies are now struggling. Miasole recently did a round of layoffs, Nanosolar raised money reportedly at a huge down round, and we all know the story of Solyndra.
AQT’s technology deposits CIGS material onto small pieces of glass that are the same size as silicon solar cells. The AQT cells are meant to be drop-in replacements for silicon cells, and AQT wanted its solar manufacturer customers to make AQT cells on their own silicon cell equipment. Back in 2010, AQT Solar said it had started up its first production line in Sunnyvale and then in early 2011 again said it had a plan to build a factory in South Carolina.
But earlier this year AQT revealed that its manufacturing plans were more modest than it previously planned. The company said it estimated that it would make “more than 30 MW by mid-year,” which was a far smaller amount than it had predicted back in 2010 and 2011.
Now it sounds like the market has just gotten too difficult for the company to survive as a stand alone player. VentureWire reports that AQT brought on Gerbsman Partners to take care of the sale of its assets and intellectual property. Will Chinese, Korean or even Japanese manufacturing giants swoop in to buy up these assets quickly?