Silevo Solar, a module manufacturer, was named as one of the top 10 most innovative technology companies to watch in 2013 by technology research and analysis firm Lux Research.
“This company certainly stands out,” said Fatima Toor, a Lux analyst who primarily focuses on the solar industry.
The Chinese company has an office in California, but primarily works out of China. It’s trying to break into the emerging U.S. market and Toor said she believes the company will be successful despite new tariffs on Chinese-made solar panels that will make importing them from the Chinese manufacturing facility difficult.
The company has developed a high-efficiency solar cell that Toor said she believes will compete with SunPower.
“By utilizing electroplated copper contacts and a thin amorphous silicon layer on its crystalline silicon cells, Silevo has a module efficiency of 17.8 percent, with a viable roadmap to higher efficiency at competitive costs,” according to the release from Lux.
Toor said the company has achieved efficiencies as high as 21.1 percent and averages more than 20 percent efficiency.
“That’s extremely high relative to the rest of the industry,” Toor said.
What’s more is that the company knows how to keep its costs down. Where SunPower is hitting about $1.10 to $1.25 per watt, Silevo has costs down to 98 cents per watt.
“And they only have a 32-megawatt scale,” she said. “So if they increase their scale, prices could come down more.”
She said SIlevo is looking to open a new 200-megawatt plant outside of China so it will be able to enter the emerging U.S. market. Toor said the company would consider a U.S. state like Mississippi that has incentives and tax advantages for solar panel manufacturers. But since the company already does a bulk of its business in Europe, it’s also considering some Eastern European locations that would be close to that market and would allow the company to sell into the U.S. without fear of added tariffs.
Silevo was Lux’s only solar pick among its top 10 innovators to watch. But one other company, Enbala, sould pave the way for higher solar penetration on the grid. Analyst Brian Warshay said the company’s cutting-edge grid-optimization technology will help utilities manage a grid with more renewable energy sources.