The highly automated Hyderabad facility is designed to work with 125 mm or 156 mm mono or multi-crystalline cells, cells less than 180 microns thick and cells with two or three bus bars. The module manufacturing line was purchased from P. Energy of Italy. The PV module assembly line is believed to be one of the most automated in Asia. Currently, four robotic stations are installed in different locations in the line for lay up, trimming and framing stations.
Solar Semiconductor's principal founders are Hari Surapaneni, president and CEO, and Venkata Kode, chief operating officer. The initial seed funding of $10 million came from the founding group. The company is planning to close a round of outside funding totaling $15 to $20 million in Q1, 2008 and later raise $75 to $100 million in private equity financing.
SSN Prasad is VP of India operations. Prior to joining Solar Semiconductor, he was the managing director of Hyderabad Design Centre (HDC) of Analog Devices India. He co-founded Chiplogic. Earlier, he was with Semiconductor Complex Ltd. (SCL), Chandigarh, India from 1980 to 1998. At SCL, he set up an integrated 6-inch wafer fabrication, VLSI design, test & packaging and QA facilities with over $100 million investment in 1997.
Jagadish (Jake) Buddhavarapu serves as VP of business development. Before joining Solar, he was director of business development and marketing with TSI Inc. which is a high technology instrumentation manufacturer specializing in precision instruments.
Nava Akkineni is Solar Semiconductor's VP of sales and marketing. Earlier, in his last job at BenQ America he was a VP and GM of the Canada operations. Before BenQ, he was a marketing director of the Network Media Platform for Analog Devices. He also held senior positions as operations director, deputy managing director and GM for Acer Computer.
In September 2007, the company signed a10-year deal with Germany's ersol Solar Energy AG to supply $170 million worth of solar cells over a 10-year period. Ersol is a major solar cell producer with sales of approximately $200 million. The ersol Group with 700 employees has business units for silicon, wafers, solar cells and module production.
Just a month earlier, the company revealed another $170 million deal with Q-Cells of Germany. Q-Cells AG is the world's largest independent producer of solar cells and the second largest overall. In 2007, the company with its 1,300 employees plans to produce 370 MWp of mono- and polycrystalline cells.
Solar Semiconductor offers a range of PV modules for grid connected as well off-grid applications. The product line up consists of four basic module families:
Solar Semiconductor has also developed unique "module configuration tools" which enables the company to work collaboratively with its customers to configure custom modules.
As with other solar PV makers, Solar Semiconductor hopes to disrupt the fast growing but crowded solar industry by significantly reducing the manufacturing costs of solar panels. Solar Semiconductor is going head-to-head against larger, better funded publicly traded crystal PV module manufacturers such as Sharp Solar, Mitsubishi, Sanyo Kyocera, BP Solar, SunPower, and dozens of others. Solar Semiconductor's stated differentiator is its ability to make modules down to 150 micron thickness -- thereby using 25% less silicon or 25% more wafers than conventional suppliers. Solar Semi's three-bus-bar, 60-cell, 240-W module hit conversion efficiencies of 16.3% at the cell level and 14.5% at the module, with only a few watts of output lost.
Solar Semiconductor has begun to establish business operations outside of India. In Q4 2007, the solar startup set up a beachhead in Silicon Valley with an office in Sunnyvale, Calif. staffed by four persons.
Due to its lower labor cost structures and demand requirements, India holds big potential both as a worldwide hub for solar panel production and as an end market for PV electric power.