About Solaria Corporation:
Established in 2000, Solaria has created one of the industry’s most respected IP Portfolios, with over 250 issued and pending patents encompassing materials, processes, applications, products, manufacturing automation and equipment. Headquartered in California, Solaria has developed a technology platform that unlocks the potential of solar energy.
History of Solaria
Solaria’s initial technology expertise was in the development of low-concentration-photovoltaics (LCPV). Solaria’s products and technologies were field-tested, certified and productized, with over 30 mega-watts installed in demanding, utility-grade, ground mounted deployments around the world. Solaria became synonymous with field-tested, high quality, durable, high performance LCPV combined with innovative solar tracking arrays.
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Solaria Corp., a Fremont, Calif.-headquartered manufacturer of solar modules, has begun shipping its crystalline photovoltaic solar modules to customers in North America, Europe, and Asia.
Solaria's crystalline module uses patented technology to provide all the reliability, performance, and quality of a standard silicon module at a lower cost, according to the company. Solaria uses only proven, UL-listed materials that are standard in the PV industry, thereby eliminating the risks associated with new materials. Solaria modules are specifically optimized for tracking systems.
The Solaria module, available in 230 W, 220 W, and 210 W models, is the first low-concentration flat-plate module to achieve international certification, the company adds. Solaria's module is certified to UL1703 and IEC 61215 standards, and its performance and reliability have been validated by independent laboratories.
After the announcement of the creation of the Solaria German affiliate at the end of last year, Solaria has now signed a distribution agreement with the international system integrator Phoenix Solar AG for the supply of 10MWp of solar PV modules, in the next few months.
Phoenix Solar AG, which has its headquarters in Sulzemoos near Munich, Germany, is a leading internationally operating photovoltaic systems integrator, listed in the German Stock Exchange. Phoenix Solar plans to build and operates large photovoltaic plants and is a specialist wholesaler for complete power plants, solar modules, and accessories.
This agreement is showing the commitment of Solaria with the German market where the company is devoting considerable resources.
Solaria has received $45 million in additional funding from new and previous investors to show that concentrators have a future.
The company has created a solar module that emphasizes less silicon. It starts with a regular module. The cells are then "singulated" into strips to produce a module that sort of looks like shredded wheat: half of the cells are removed and put on another module. An optical concentrator that effectively doubles the amount of sun striking the module is added. The process results in a solar module that requires less raw material but puts out the same, or more, power as a conventional module.
Solaria sells its modules to utilities and independent power providers for large-scale solar parks. The modules are placed on trackers. Dan Shugar, who served as president of tracker specialist PowerLight during its rapid rise, became CEO earlier this year. (SunPower ultimately bought PowerLight.)
So you've got money, an interesting technology, a customer base ravenous for solar and a way to save silicon. What could go wrong?
Silicon prices. When the company was founded, silicon prices were climbing. Silicon prices have come down from their highs and some nations (China) is studying ways to restrict polysilicon production to help existing manufacturers.
"Replacing half the silicon with a potentially expensive, time-consuming, and the low-yield process made only a little sense when silicon was expensive. By all accounts, the price of silicon is forecast to continue to fall and that just erodes Solaria's value proposition. The metrics that matter are dollars per watt, dollars per watt of CAPEX, and efficiency," my colleague Eric Wesoff wrote in January.
Concentrators also continue to remain a zero-billion-dollar market.
On the other hand, concentrator outfits do seem to be honing in on their target markets better. Soliant, for instance, is targeting large, flat roofs in Southwest-like climates only. This laser-like tailoring of a solution to a customer might work: it allowed a workstation market to existing for a good ten years. Solaria has refined its message and target customer base, as well, and one of the company's newest investors is Mitsui, a strategic partner with lots of projects worldwide.
So stay tuned.
Solaria believes in crystalline silicon. At a panel discussion late last year, Suvi Sharma, Solaria's President, made the arguable contention: "Aside from First Solar, there is no bankable thin-film."
Solaria builds crystalline silicon solar panels that look like standard form-factor 60-cell panels. They are about 14 percent efficient modules and put out approximately 230 watts. The twist is that Solaria concentrates the sunlight using a simple 2X lensing system and reduces the amount of silicon that goes into each panel by half. Additionally, Solaria claims it can ride innovation gains in crystalline silicon to produce cheaper and more efficient panels since the cell is 75 percent to 80 percent of the cost of the module. There is also a roadmap to 3X concentration.
Innovation gains such as what Innovalight is doing with silicon ink was one example cited by the CTO of Solaria, Kevin Gibson.
Solaria Corp., a Fremont, Calif.-based photovoltaic manufacturer, was named one of The 10 Most Innovative Tech Products of 2011 by Popular Mechanics. The company was awarded the recognition for developing photovoltaic modules that significantly reduced the number of silicon semiconductors needed in them while maintaining the efficiency of comparable modules.
The awards recognize products available today that are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in terms of technology.
Popular Mechanics celebrated the awardees at a ceremony in New York City on Oct. 10 and published the results in its November 2011 issue, which came out Oct. 11.
“We’re thrilled to have Solaria’s solar panels honored by Popular Mechanics, a magazine that has a long history of bringing intelligence about technology to its readers,” Solaria CEO Dan Shugar said in a press release.
Solaria was awarded for developing modules using its cell multiplication technology, which Popular Mechanics said led to modules that cost one-third less than photovoltaics (PVs) of similar efficiency.
While other companies like Amonix have developed high-concentrating photovoltaics, which can focus 1,000 or more times the sunlight on a small, high-efficiency gallium arsenide photovoltaic cell, the price for those cells is much greater than for silicon photovoltaics, hence requiring the greater concentration.
With Solaria’s low-concentrating PV technology it can take advantage of lower-cost PV materials while using industry-standard production equipment, both of which help reduce cost.
“Using a proprietary singulation and packaging process, Solaria delivers high-efficiency, improved system performance, and kilowatt-hour cost reduction crucial to market growth,” Shugar said. “Because our technology draws on existing science, any improvement in standard cells—efficiency, thickness, silicon cost—directly amplifies the benefits of our platform.”
The company is capable of producing 50 megawatts of modules now and plans to expand more in 2012. Since its products use less silicon, additional manufacturing capacity can be added quicker and at a lower cost-per-watt than other technologies, according to a white paper from the company.