21 September 2011
Stion opens 100MW CIGSSe PV factory in Mississippi
Stion Corp of San Jose, CA, USA, which makes nanostructure-based CIGSSe (copper indium gallium sulphur-diselenide) thin-film photovoltaic panels, has opened its first mass-production factory in Hattiesburg, MS with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and other state and local officials.
Founded in 2006 as Nstructures, Stion raised $15m in June 2007 in a Series B financing round led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and joined by General Catalyst Partners along with previous investors Khosla Ventures and Braemar Energy Ventures. In June 2010, these added $20m to $50m invested by the world’s largest semiconductor foundry Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) — via its affiliate VentureTech Alliance — in a $70m Series D round of fundraising to help scale production (boosting the total raised since 2006 to $114.6m). Stion also formed a strategic partnership with TSMC covering technology licensing, supply, and joint development.
Stion’s existing 10MW-capacity product line in San Jose makes modules using what is claimed to be a simple, low-cost monolithically integrated circuit design. With a form factor of 65cm x 165cm and energy conversion efficiencies of at least 11% and power ratings of 110–120W, the glass–glass CIGSSe PV panels are designed for use in major market segments including commercial/government, residential, utility and off-grid. Stion received its UL 1703 and IEC 61646 product certifications in January.
Also, the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has just verified an efficiency of 14.1% for Stion’s circuits, a record for production-scale monolithically integrated thin-film circuits. “Achieving 14.1% efficiency over a large area is indicative of the exceptional process control and uniformity delivered by Stion’s technology, and also speaks to the continued improvement potential for CIGS-based technologies to meet the DOE SunShot goal of price parity by the end of this decade,” comments Rommel Noufi, NREL’s lead researcher for thin-film solar cells.
Stion says that its unique approach to CIGS leverages proprietary materials and device expertise along with a robust, high-volume manufacturing process based on readily available, standardized equipment. Using a monolithically integrated circuit design instead of assembling individual cells into a module enables a lower bill of materials and more streamlined manufacturing process, it adds.
“Manufacturing high-efficiency, large-area CIGS modules with an inherently low cost structure and repeatable, scalable process is critical to driving the fundamental product economics,” says Stion’s president & CEO Chet Farris.
The new facility in Hattiesburg, which is the first thin-film solar factory in the Southeastern US, should deliver more than 1000 jobs and $500m of investment over the next six years. The first phase includes a 100MW production line which will entail more than $100m of investment and 200 direct jobs in 2011 and 2012.
Since announcing the Hattiesburg site in January, Stion has hired 100 staff locally and implemented recruiting and training programs with Pearl River Community College and the University of Southern Mississippi. First-phase production will begin later this year.
“Our partnership with the state of Mississippi and the city of Hattiesburg has been a tremendous driving force behind our manufacturing scale-up,” says Farris. “Our local employees and partners have worked hard to start up this facility on an extremely fast timeline,” he adds.