Although CIGS are not as efficient as traditional silicon solar cells, they require less raw materials for construction and the factories are cheaper to build, too. According to CEO David Pearce, a Miasole factory could produce 100 megawatts worth of solar panels annually for $25 million, compared to a silicon solar factory, which usually produce about 30 megawatts worth of panels a year for $70 million.
The major difference is in the manufacturing. Whereas silicon panels are produced in a similar manner to computer chips, CIGS are printed onto thin, flexible foils or polymer sheets with silk screens.
Another advantage of CIGS is that it is not dependent on silicon, dwindling supplies of which have slowed sale of silicon panels, but some analysts say indium supplies could run short, too. Terry Schuyler, vice president of sales and marketing at rival CIGS manufacturer DayStar Technologies, said he was not worried because indium is fairly common in the earth.
The major drawback for CIGS currently is that they are only made in small amounts, but Miasole and DayStar are both making moves to mass-produce the technology. Nanosolar, another company working on expanding CIGS production, recently raised $100 million to build a factory capable of producing 430 megawatts worth of panels annually, and HelioVolt just acquired venture funds from investors such as New Enterprise Associates in order to produce CIGS.