September 9, 2009 / 3:03 PM / 10 years ago

Q&A with Nanosolar's CEO Roscheisen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Nanasolar, a privately held photovoltaic solar company, announced on Wednesday it had begun operations at its German panel factory and that earlier this year it started up its California cell plant.

Martin Roscheisen, chief executive officer of the company which counts as customers Beck Energy/Belectric, EDF EN, AES Solar, juwi, and NextLight, took part in a question-and-answer session via email with Reuters.

REUTERS: Do you see the need for a feed-in tariff in the United States to support the solar industry, such as Germany has created?

ROSCHEISEN: A feed-in tariff accomplishes two things at once: First, it provides a predictable and thus investible framework for green power investments. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it takes away control from the monopoly of the state utilities and unleashes entrepreneurial power producers.

While utilities have a key and important role in the ownership and adoption of solar, if you place them dominantly into the driver’s seat and gate everything through them, it will ultimately diminish the potential of the market.

Also, one important thing to realize about a feed-in tariff is that the rate it pays does not necessarily have to be very high in order to produce a fair playing field for entrepreneurial producers of distributed green power.

That’s why (California’s) recently proposed Reverse Auction Market is an interesting approach to watch — if adopted, its competitive bid process will likely drive costs down to fair market value.

REUTERS: Is Nanosolar cash-flow positive currently, and if not, when would you expect to be? Do you have plans to pursue an IPO?

ROSCHEISEN: We just started serial production, so we are not yet cash-flow positive. We are well funded with over $500 million in equity financing and presently do not require additional capital.

REUTERS: Do you think there will be acceptance in the market for your copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) modules?

ROSCHEISEN: Standard flat-plate glass/glass CIGS is a well-known quantity and is being accepted very readily by the market. While we have a lot of process innovations in our technology, the result is just standard CIGS.

That’s the beauty, and this was our game plan from the beginning to ensure ready market acceptance. We would not want to offer anything that requires market participants to adopt a different way of installing a product or a different way of analyzing system performance.

REUTERS - What’s your take on the current situation around financing for solar projects? Is it improving after the problems of the past year?

ROSCHEISEN: The solar market is not insulated from credit issues. There appears to be a bifurcation in the industry. Those who have strong financials, which includes our key customers, manage to get projects financed and implemented. Those who have a weaker balance sheet, a lot of debt on their books, or thin or no profitability have problems. One which actually allows those with strong financials to get even stronger.

Reporting by Matt Daily, editing by Dave Zimmerman

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