Hanergy acquires Alta Devices

After pivoting away from its plans to establish GW-capacity amorphous-silicon fabs, Hanergy has been aggressively acquiring thin film technologies. These include Germany’s Solibro, and Global Solar and MiaSolé from the U.S. Its latest move is the acquisition of Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) thin film developer Alta Devices.

Neither Hanergy nor Alta Devices have revealed the terms of the deal.

Alta claims its GaAs cells have achieved NREL-verified world record efficiencies of 28.8% for a single junction and 30.8% for a dual junction cell. These are presumably tiny and “hero” cells. Alta has been aiming at supplying the consumer electronics and military application market with its high efficiency, flexible cells.

The deposition technique Alta Devices employs is known as “epitaxial lift off” (ELO) and it was pioneered by Alta co-founder Eli Yablonovitch.

Hanergy said that both companies’ R&D teams would work to develop Alta Device’s technology. Hanergy said, in a statement announcing the acquisition, that it intends to pursue supplying “mobile power applications” with Alta’s technology, including mobile phones, the automotive sector and the much-hyped Internet of Things space.

Alta Device’s reports that its single-junction cells are already in production. Previous reports had Alta targeting 40 MW of production capacity with its technology, although as of late 2013 the firm had achieved only 2 MW. Alta had targeted $0.50/W production costs.

Alta was previously funded by a range of VC funds including Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers (KPCB), Bright Capital, Dow and GE. It reportedly had raised $120 million and previously had picked up a $2 million NREL grant while in its very early stages. Alta is a Berkley University spin off.

Why Alta was unable to raise further rounds is unclear and, as MIT Technology Review postulates, it may speak more to the VC sentiment regarding solar startups than to the firm’s ability to execute on its manufacturing plans. What is also unclear is whether Hanergy’s size will allow it to finance Alta’s GaAs technology through to commercialization.

Hanergy has been pursuing its plans to install production lines, using its CIGS acquisitions Solibro and MiaSolé’s technology, and recently opened a Solibro line in China. German firm Singulus provided some of the tooling.

pv magazine has approached Hanergy for comment.