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Fuel-Cell Membrane Maker Diversifying into Solar

30 May 2006

Hoku Scientific, a designer, developer and manufacturer of hydrocarbon-based membranes and membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) for proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells, plans to diversify its product offerings by manufacturing and selling solar modules, in addition to manufacturing polysilicon, a key material used in the production of solar modules.

Hoku anticipates that the costs to establish its solar operation will be approximately $250 million, which the company will seek to fund through the issuance of debt and from potential customers’ cash down payments for future supply of polysilicon and modules. Hoku will explore basing these manufacturing operations in Singapore.

Our plans to enter the solar power market represents the logical extension of our business as a provider of clean energy technologies, and complements our core fuel cell business. However, while the market for fuel cell products is still emerging, the solar market is already a rapidly growing industry.

One of the primary limits to the growth of the solar market is supply constraints of polysilicon, the key material used in solar modules and integrated circuits. To address these supply constraints, we also plan to manufacture sufficient quantities of polysilicon to meet our initial and future expected demand.

—Dustin Shindo, President and CEO, Hoku Scientific

Hoku Scientific intends to operate the solar module business as a separate business under the name “Hoku Solar.” Hoku Solar expects to enter the market through the manufacture and sale of polysilicon-based photovoltaic modules, with planned initial manufacturing capacity of 30 megawatts per year beginning in the second half of calendar year 2007.

Hoku Scientific intends to build a polysilicon processing plant designed to initially produce up to 1,500 metric tons of polysilicon per year, beginning in the second half of calendar year 2008. The polysilicon plant is expected to be operated by Hoku Scientific as a separate business under the name “Hoku Materials.” Initially, plans call for approximately 300 metric tons of polysilicon produced by Hoku Materials to be allocated to Hoku Solar, while the remaining 1,200 metric tons are expected to be available for sale to the solar and integrated circuit markets.

Hoku Scientific will also form a new business unit called “Hoku Fuel Cells” to continue the core business of developing, marketing, manufacturing and selling membranes and MEAs for stationary and automotive PEM fuel cells.

Hoku has been developing membranes and MEAs for Nissan’s fuel cell cars and trucks, among other applications. (Earlier post.)

May 30, 2006 in Fuel Cells, Solar | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

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Comments

Interesting that a company heavily into fuel cells now wants to invest in solar.
Could it be another signal thet fuel cells for autos are NOT on the horizon?
Also, I bet that they forecast a contining tight supply for solar cells, so the mkt price will be maintained.

I guess they also think that Copper Indium Gallium Diselenide (CIGS)solar cells from South Africa won't affect price.


Yeah, I think a LOT of the current optimism in solar market trends is contingent on hopes that advancing alternative cell technologies will stave off for a few years. Make money while commodities are bouncing and supplies are strained, then bitch out when the core technologies decentralize.

After getting my PhD researching composite fuel cell membranes, I actually applied for a position with Hoku over a year ago. After 2 phone interviews and a promise for a third, I never heard from them again. Now, the same positions are still listed available on their website. In my interview, it sure seemed like they were more interested in harvesting research ideas than hiring. Let's just say I don't own their stock, nor will I ever.

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