CIGS is smoking.
Solyndra, a somewhat secretive developer of solar cells made from copper indium gallium selenium, or CIGS, has raised $79 million, according to London-based clean tech industry analyst New Energy Finance. Investors include CMEA Ventures and Redpoint Ventures.
CIGS solar cells are less efficient than traditional crystalline silicon solar cells in extracting electrons from sunlight. CIGS, however, can be applied to thin sheets of plastic or metal, making CIGS solar cells potentially less expensive to manufacture. These sheets can also be incorporated into roofing or building materials, potentially making CIGS solar panels less obtrusive and easier to install than silicon ones.
Installation is a big problem for silicon solar panels: roughly half the cost of a solar system revolves around getting someone to climb up onto your roof with a ladder and screw them in.
Getting a CIGS company off the ground, however, isn't cheap because it requires manufacturing facilities. Rival Nanosolar raised $100 million last year.
Miasole, another CIGS manufacturer, is expected to come out with the first commercial CIGS cells very soon. Other CIGS manufacturers include HelioVolt and Shell Solar.
While these companies all vary their CIGS recipes, where they really differ is in their manufacturing techniques. Miasole uses a sputtering technique, similar to how hard drives get coated with magnetic materials. Others exploit evaporation techniques. Another, SoloPower, electroplates the CIGS material onto glass. With electroplating, you can't do continuous, roll-to-roll manufacturing, but the substrate--glass--and the manufacturing technique is cheap.