We are a development stage company formed in October 2005 to commercialize flexible photovoltaic (PV) modules using proprietary technology. Our technology was initially developed at ITN Energy Systems, Inc. (ITN) by our founder and core scientific team beginning in 1994 and subsequently assigned and licensed to us. Our proprietary manufacturing process deposits multiple layers of materials, including a thin film of highly efficient copper-indium-gallium-diselenide (CIGS) semiconductor material, on a flexible, lightweight, plastic substrate and then laser patterns the layers to create interconnected PV cells, or PV modules, in a process known as monolithic integration. We believe that our technology and manufacturing process provides us with significant advantages over both the crystalline silicon (c-Si) based PV manufacturers that currently dominate the PV market, as well as other thin-film PV manufacturers that use rigid and/or heavier substrate materials such as glass, stainless steel or other metals.
Our thin-film PV modules require less than 1% of the semiconductor material to achieve the same power output as a c-Si-based PV device, thus we do not face the supply constraints and raw material costs that may affect silicon-based PV manufacturers. Also, relative to our thin-film competitors, our use of CIGS on a flexible, durable, lightweight, high-tech plastic substrate allows for integration of our PV modules into a variety of building materials, electronic products, military, and space applications, as well as other products and applications that may emerge. The unique attributes of our materials enable a reduction in the overall system cost, installation cost and logistical cost-per-watt ratios. For markets that place a high premium on weight, like space and near space markets, our materials provide attractive increases in the power-to-weight ratio. Our materials have higher power-to-area ratios and voltage-to-area ratios than do competing flexible PV thin films. These metrics will be critical as we position ourselves to compete in commercial roof-top applications and high value-added markets like military, space and EIPV solar module applications. We believe that, when employed on a sufficiently large commercial scale, our large-format, roll-to-roll manufacturing process and proprietary monolithic integration techniques will allow us to achieve a per watt manufacturing cost lower than most of our flexible, lightweight, thin film competitors. At sufficiently large commercial scale we believe overall grid parity is possible—i.e., the point at which the system level cost of our PV-generated power is equal to that of retail power distributed from the electric utility grid—in certain geographic markets within five years
While focused on speed to market, we believe that quality and consistency of product will be paramount to our success in the marketplace. Consequently, our path to commercialization is defined by a highly disciplined, staged progression based upon the achievement of key milestones and supported by over fourteen years of concerted research and development activity by our scientists. Our progression also takes into account market conditions, as well as financing options. In keeping with our philosophy, we completed construction of a 1.5 MW production line in December 2007. In March 2008, we demonstrated initial operating capability (IOC) of our 1.5 MW production line by initiating production trials as an end-to-end integrated process. Early IOC production trials resulted in average thin-film device efficiencies of 9.5% and small area monolithically integrated module efficiencies of over 7%. Recent and ongoing production optimization trials have resulted in thin-film device efficiencies in the 9.5% to 11.5% range and corresponding module efficiencies in the 7.0% to 9.0% range. In the fourth quarter 2008 the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) independently verified that the modules produced on our 1.5 MW line measured as high as 9.64% in conversion efficiency. The test modules measured six inches wide by one foot long and serve as our building block for both BIPV and portable power products. During 2008 we focused on testing and qualifying our 1.5 MW production line in anticipation of commencing limited regular production. During the first quarter of 2009, we began regular production of monolithically integrated flexible CIGS modules from our 1.5 MW production line. We expect that process optimization will be an ongoing effort as we continuously strive for improvements in production yield, production throughput, and product efficiency that have a direct bearing on our cost competitiveness in the marketplace.
During 2008, we initiated the critical tasks of internal product testing and product development with customers. In 2009, we continued those tasks further and have commenced prototype development with our BIPV, EIPV and military customers by providing them test samples from our 1.5MW production line. At the same time we expect to complete the internal testing and product certification in the second half of 2009.
The Company's new manufacturing facility in Thornton, Colorado is in the final stages of completion and will be ready to accommodate installation of the equipment in second quarter of 2009. Production tooling and equipment for the 30 MW plant began arriving in the first quarter of 2009 and installation is scheduled to be completed in the first half of 2010. We expect to begin production with an annual rated capacity of 15 MW by the middle of 2010, and 30 MW of annual capacity by the end of 2010. We intend to incrementally expand our production capacity to 110 MW or greater by adding more capacity based on manufacturing developments, market conditions and availability of financing.
Markets and Marketing Strategy
Our target markets include building integrated PV (BIPV) market, electronic integrated PV (EIPV) market, military and governmental portable power market, and space and near space markets.
In BIPV applications, solar modules are incorporated directly into building and construction materials. For BIPV we intend to be the supplier of choice by offering high-performance, lightweight, durable and flexible PV modules that can be integrated directly into building material products such as roofing membranes, roofing shingles, siding, facades, shading devices, parking structures, metal and composite panels. We anticipate that when integrated with our solar modules, traditional building materials will produce electricity from the integrated PV. Commercial rooftop applications may become an important market for the Company's laminated solar products where we are cooperating with three important strategic partners.
In EIPV applications, solar modules are incorporated directly into portable electronic devices or the surface of their accessories. For EIPV we intend to supply high voltages in small spaces for PV integration directly into electronic packages, casings, and accessories in the consumer electronics market.
Military and governmental portable power is an attractive market opportunity for us to provide light weight power generating products like solar blankets and solar tents that can be field deployed for powering the military's increasing energy requirements. By displacing conventional fuels, the military can become more cost effective by utilizing our PV materials where there is no reliably operating electric grid. During 2009 we intend to continue to develop the existing military portable power market by developing relationships with key strategic players currently serving this market as existing large military and governmental contractors. We envision the military market as a likely early market entry point for our lightweight portable power products because similar products have been in development and qualification testing for a number of years.
In space and near space market applications, solar PV modules are incorporated into satellites or aircraft and/or high altitude air ships. In the space, near space and military portable power markets, we believe that our power producing modules are uniquely suited for applications requiring mobility, durability and lightweight. In the space and near space market, we intend to use our durable and lightweight technology to provide both higher value and more capable solutions at cost effective system prices. We hope to develop customers in these markets based upon strategic relationships with large players in those application areas.
Our marketing and distribution strategy is based on the formation of strategic relationships with key partners, including original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and system integrators and distributors, who deal directly with installers, contractors or end-users in our target markets. In 2007, we entered into a strategic relationship with Norsk Hydro Produksjon AS (together with its affiliates, Norsk Hydro),is a major global supplier of aluminum-based building systems and pursuant to our relationship, we intend to integrate our flexible PV modules into building products produced and sold by Norsk Hydro, including sun-shading systems, wall systems and facades. Also, in February 2008, we announced the mutual pursuit of a series of strategic relationships with ITOCHU Corporation (ITOCHU) pursuant to which ITOCHU could, among other things, manage our OEM relationships in Japan and support distribution of our PV modules into markets in which ITOCHU is pursuing solar installations. In 2008 we announced five other cooperative agreements, and are in discussions with a number of other market participants to establish similar non-exclusive relationships in a variety of geographic markets worldwide.
Until we commence production at our new production facility being constructed in Thornton, Colorado, which we currently expect will occur by mid 2010, we intend to supply our strategic partners with PV module samples produced on our 1.5 MW production line to support our partners' development, testing and certification of new integrated flexible PV products. This should enable them to identify and cultivate promising market segments. By cooperating with our strategic partners in this way, we hope to create sufficient and consistent demand for our PV modules by the time we commence large scale commercial production of our PV modules using our planned production tools for approximately 30 MW of rated capacity. We also intend to initiate sales of PV modules to these partners from our 1.5 MW production line. We envision that we ultimately will serve as a provider of high value-added thin film solar components to our strategic partners, who will be solely responsible for the marketing, sales and distribution of their integrated building and electronics products, as well as or our key partners in the government, military, space and near-space application markets. In so doing, we intend to position ourselves as a leading manufacturer and supplier of value-added lightweight, durable, and flexible PV components to these markets. By capitalizing on the lightweight features of our thin film PV products, we believe that we can reduce overall system installation and logistics costs, making our PV solutions more attractive to our strategic partners and their customers.
Although the BIPV, EIPV and military portable power solar panel application markets comprise our immediate target markets, in the longer term, we also intend to pursue opportunities in the space satellite and near-space markets. We expect the space satellite and the near-space markets to evolve more gradually than the terrestrial market principally due to the higher degree of product qualifications and flight testing that will be required. We anticipate that our pathway to the space and near-space markets will be through development of modules for experimental space qualification tests and then actual flight experiments with governmental customers, followed by full scale flight arrays on operational systems once the technology and arrays have been fully space qualified. We intend to pursue these opportunities because we believe that the space and near-space markets place a premium on performance and offer a correspondingly high-value opportunity for our technology.
As of February 2, 2009, we had 58 employees of which 7 were executive officers and 1 was part time. We expect the number of employees to grow significantly as we install additional equipment and increase manufacturing capacity.