13 August 2010


AQT’s first CIGS PV manufacturing plant starts production

AQT Solar of Santa Clara, CA, USA has opened its new facility in Sunnyvale for manufacturing its copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) thin-film photovoltaic cells. The plant — in a new R&D and manufacturing facility (close to the firm’s headquarters) — has already begun production on an initial manufacturing line with annual capacity of 15MW, in order to fulfill customer orders of 20MW (with substantial purchase orders in the pipeline).

Founded in 2007, AQT’s rapid path from inception to production in two years is claimed to be unprecedented in the solar industry, demonstrating its technology and ‘CIGS 2.0’ business model.

AQT uses a proprietary process (allowing continuous in-line production) together with manufacturing platforms that have been field-proven in the hard-disk-drive industry. In early April, AQT announced a strategic partnership with Santa Clara-based Intevac, which design and makes high-productivity sputtering-based manufacturing systems, to supply its manufacturing equipment to AQT.

Also in early April, AQT closed a $10m second round of venture funding (bringing the total raised to almost $15m), which financed construction of the new facility.

As well as using ‘off-the-shelf’ manufacturing equipment from Intevac, the line’s modular design also allowed for quick on-site deployment. The new site’s preparation, build-out, line implementation and qualification, and production initiation was completed for in less than eight weeks. AQT says that the small footprint of each highly automated machine provides efficient use of space within the 20,000ft2 facility. The firm can hence scale up the plant to an annual production capacity of 60MW in an area many times smaller than its nearest competitors, it is claimed.

“Starting commercial production so early in our company’s lifecycle is a confirmation of our business model, the leverage we receive from world-class partners like Intevac, and our breakthrough CIGS production process,” claims CEO Michael Bartholomeusz. “We have set aggressive production goals for the remainder of 2010 and beyond.”

AQT has also announced its first customer installation, at the large Sol Pacifico high-end property development, which has ordered a 2MW plant to power its gated community in Baja Mexico on the Pacific coast. Scheduled to break ground in 2011, the plant could potentially grow to 9MW. “This project represents a concerted effort at renewable and responsible resort development,” says Sol Pacifico project manager Antonio Cordova. “Our vision was of a sustainable and eco-friendly project,” he adds.

In August, AQT is moving its headquarters and R&D from its original location in Santa Clara to the new site in Sunnyvale. It expects to add 40 jobs over the next six months in Silicon Valley. AQT is also evaluating sites for a second high-volume facility, expecting to break ground on it early next year.

See related items:

AQT partners with module maker and solar system firm to speed CIGS PV cells to market

CIGS PV maker AQT raises $10m to fund first, 15MW production plant

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