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Ascent Solar Technologies inc   (ASTI)
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Ascent Solar Technologies inc

Business Description


Ascent Solar was formed in October 2005 as a development stage company to commercialize flexible photovoltaic (“PV”) modules using our proprietary thin film technology. The technology was initially developed at ITN Energy Systems, Inc. (“ITN”) 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, high tech plastic substrate using a roll-to-roll manufacturing process followed by laser patterning 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, which results in a much lighter, flexible yet durable module package, provides us with unique market opportunities relative to both the crystalline silicon (“c-Si”) based PV manufacturers that currently lead the PV market, as well as other thin film PV manufacturers that use substrate materials such as glass, stainless steel or other metals that can be heavier and more rigid than plastics.

We believe that the use of CIGS on a flexible, durable, lightweight, high tech plastic substrate will allow for unique and seamless integration of our PV modules into a variety of electronic products, defense, transportation and aerospace applications, as well as other products and applications that may emerge. For markets that place a high premium on weight, such as consumer electronics, defense, space, near space, and aeronautic markets, we believe our materials provide attractive increases in power-to-weight ratio, and that our materials have higher power-to-area ratios and voltage-to-area ratios than competing flexible PV thin film technologies. These metrics will be critical as we position ourselves to compete in challenging high value markets such as aerospace where Ascent Solar products can be integrated into satellites, near earth orbiting vehicles, and fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicles ("UAV").

In March 2008, we demonstrated initial operating capacity of our first production line by beginning production trials as an end to end integrated process. Initial operating capacity production trials resulted in average thin film device efficiencies of 9.5% and small area monolithically integrated module efficiencies of over 7.0%. During 2008, optimization trials 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. The test modules measured approximately 15 centimeters wide by 30 centimeters long. During the first quarter of 2009, we began limited production of monolithically integrated flexible CIGS modules in our initial production line. Our primary business model, at that time, was based upon mass production of solar modules of varying lengths, sizes and configurations. We provided sample modules to potential customers and development partners in various industries to explore integration of our products into new applications.

In July 2009, we obtained independent verification by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (“NREL”) that our modules measured 10.4% in conversion efficiency. The modules tested at NREL were approximately 15 centimeters wide by 30 centimeters long. In October 2009, NREL further verified our achievement of a manufacturing milestone of 14.0% cell efficiency as well as a peak efficiency of 11.4% for CIGS modules. Later, in December 2010, we achieved 12.1% module efficiency on the same form factor. In October 2010, we completed internal qualification testing of a flexible packaging solution which successfully passed the rigorous standard of one thousand (1,000) hours of damp heat testing (85% relative humidity and 85° C temperature) guideline set forth by International Electrotechnical Commission (“IEC”) 61646 standards for performance and long term reliability of thin film solar modules.

In February 2010, three of our product configurations were certified by an independent laboratory on a variety of U.S. Department of Defense (“DOD”) rugged standards known as MIL-STD-810G. In October 2010, we completed full external certification under IEC 61646 at an independent laboratory of a two meter module. Achieving this certification is required for building integrated photovoltaic ("BIPV") and building applied photovoltaic ("BAPV") applications used in commercial, industrial and residential rooftop markets. Certification activities will continue as required as we introduce new products and make changes or improvements to our already certified products.

In 2010, we received an award from R&D Magazine and were included in their list of the 100 Most Innovative Technologies based on our process of monolithic integration on polyimide substrate. In 2011, Time Magazine selected us as one of the 50 Best Inventions of the year. In 2015 Ascent Solar won its second R&D 100 Award. The 2015 award was given for the development of the MilPak platform, a military-grade (MIL-STD-810G tested) and fully integrated solar power generation and storage unit incorporated with a Maximum Peak Power Tracking (MPPT) management system. The MilPak platform is one of the most rugged, yet lightweight, power generation and storage solutions available, both attributes enabled by the use of Ascent’s CIGS technology.

We manufacture our products by affixing a thin CIGS layer to a flexible, plastic substrate using a large format, roll-to-roll process that permits us to fabricate our flexible PV modules in an integrated sequential operation. We use proprietary monolithic integration techniques which enable us to form complete PV modules with little to no costly back end assembly of inter cell connections. Traditional PV manufacturers assemble PV modules by bonding or soldering discrete PV cells together. This manufacturing step typically increases manufacturing costs and at times proves detrimental to the overall yield and reliability of the finished product. By reducing or eliminating this added step using our proprietary monolithic integration techniques, we believe we can achieve cost savings in, and increase the reliability of, our PV modules. All tooling necessary for us to meet our near term production requirements is installed in our Thornton, Colorado plant. In 2012, we further revised our strategy to focus on applications for emerging and high-value specialty PV markets, including off grid, aerospace, military and defense and consumer oriented products.




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