August 03, 2011
By: by Larry Rulison, Business Writer
Long Island firm's R&D line would be transferred to UAlbany facility
ALBANY -- A Long Island company that makes manufacturing equipment for certain type of solar cells is getting out of the business, but the University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering could become the beneficiary.
Veeco Instruments Inc., which makes manufacturing "tools" used in factories that make light-emitting diodes and solar cells, announced last week that it will no longer make tools for a thin-film solar technology known as CIGS that uses copper, indium, gallium and selenium.
Two years ago, Veeco had purchased a CIGS research and development manufacturing line from a company called DayStar Technologies in Halfmoon for $2 million. It also was a major partner in a new solar manufacturing consortium created by the NanoCollege that recently won a $57.5 million federal grant to kick-start the U.S. solar manufacturing industry, with a special focus on CIGS technology.
Last Thursday, Veeco announced it would exit the CIGS tools business, although it would still sell deposition components. It also announced plans to "transfer" its R&D line in Halfmoon, including its manufacturing equipment and key personnel, to the NanoCollege.
The manufacturing of solar cells and LEDs is similar to the manufacture of computer chips and the processes use similar tools, which is why the NanoCollege is a logical choice for the solar manufacturing consortium. The NanoCollege already does significant research into solar technologies. Sematech, the computer chip research consortium located at the school, is partnering with the college to lead the program.
Veeco Chief Executive Officer John Peeler said the company was exiting the CIGS tools business because of "improved performance" of other solar technologies and "lower than expected" market acceptance of CIGS to date. Veeco, which will take a $51 million hit to its quarterly results to exit the business, says its earnings will immediately improve.
"While CIGS remains an important thin film solar technology, we have determined that the time frame and cost to successful commercialization are not acceptable to Veeco," Peeler said.
As of Monday, neither Veeco nor the NanoCollege would comment on how many Veeco staff would be hired by the NanoCollege or when the equipment would move to Albany because those details were still being worked on.
Pradeep Haldar, vice president of clean energy programs at the NanoCollege, says Veeco's R&D line could provide huge benefits to the solar manufacturing consortium and would accelerate its ability to attract other companies interested in entering the CIGS market with Veeco's absence.
"The fact that we have this one under our tent is a good thing," Haldar said.