A joint venture between Ascent Solar and the Chinese city of Suqian to build a thin-film solar plant has been shuttered. Initially, the plant was intended to produce about 25 MW of CIGS thin-film solar products, but that capacity could have been ramped up to 100 MW, if the plant had been constructed.
It appears the two main factors contributing to the project’s demise were a lack of technical skills in the labor force in and around Suqian and slow progress in developing the factory.
Ascent Solar had invested about $320,000 to get the joint venture up and running, and the city had shelled out about $960,000. Both parties will be able to get their investments back.
Historically, Suqian has been known more for agriculture, fishing, flowers, and producing alcoholic beverages, so it may need some time to increase its focus on technology.
Ascent makes ultra-thin film solar technology on very lightweight plastic substrates, instead of on glass. Portability is an attractive feature and some of the Colorado-based company’s products are used for charging laptops and camping equipment.
Imagine going on a backcountry trip for two weeks in a mountainous area with no electricity. Thin-film solar panels that are very easy to store and lightweight could be a good way to charge a mobile device or small, portable lights.
Ascent Solar can also create custom thin-film solutions, by working with customers directly. The company has a 30 MW nameplate production facility in Thornton.
Copper, indium, gallium selenide (CIGS) solar technology has been a tantalizing concept for a while. Wouldn’t it be great if thin-film solar tech could be applied to flat surfaces just about anywhere that would be reasonable, so it could generate electricity whenever there is sunlight?
It does seem, generally, that CIGS companies will “get there” and produce high-output products that become ubiquitous, but it has a very hard time competing with cheaper solar PV technologies that dominate the market. For those of us who are very interested in this vision coming to fruition, much patience is required. It may seem that the progress is painfully slow, but it has been fairly steady, with new efficiency records being set fairly regularly.
Image: Dantor, Wiki Commons