By Nichola Groom
(Reuters) - Thin film solar startup Nanosolar Inc on Thursday named a former Cisco Systems Inc and Hewlett Packard Co operations executive as its chief executive.
Eugenia Corrales, 46, who has served as Nanosolar's executive vice president of engineering and operations since May of 2010, will replace CEO Geoff Tate, who is retiring after two years.
Tate, 57, is a former CEO of Rambus Inc who came out of retirement to oversee Nanosolar's transition to commercial production.
In an interview, Corrales said she would stick with the company's current strategy of building orders for its newly expanded 115 megawatts of production capacity.
"We can achieve a cost structure similar to other players that have a gigawatt of capacity," Corrales said. "We can do that with a much lower volume."
Before joining Nanosolar, Corrales held positions at two cleantech startups. Prior to that, she held manufacturing and operations positions at Cisco and HP.
Nanosolar is one of a handful of Silicon Valley startups that makes solar panels from copper indium gallium selenide, or CIGS. CIGS technology holds the promise of having cheap production costs combined with cell efficiency near the best of traditional silicon-based solar cells.
But CIGS panels have been slower to achieve mass production because of the complicated manufacturing process needed to combine the four materials. In addition, CIGS has seen stiff competition from silicon-based panels, prices on which have plummeted in the last year.
CIGS, however, is rapidly gaining traction. In a report on Thursday, Raymond James analysts predicted CIGS shipments of about 1.3 GW in 2012, up about 50 percent from 2011.
The technology also received a major vote of confidence earlier this week when Japan's Solar Frontier, a unit of Showa Shell Sekiyu KK reached a deal to supply up to 150 MW of its solar panels to a California power plant being built by France's EDF Energies Nouvelles. Once completed, the plant will be the largest CIGS solar installation in the world.
Nanosolar is in the final stages of a funding round, Corrales said. The funds will be used for working capital. The company's investors include Benchmark Capital, Mohr Davidow Ventures, Energy Capital Partners and AES Solar.
(Reporting By Nichola Groom. Editing by Gunna Dickson)