Item 1. Business
Ascent Solar Technologies, Inc. (“Ascent” or the "Company") was incorporated on October 18, 2005 from the separation by ITN Energy Systems, Inc. (“ITN”) of its Advanced Photovoltaic Division and all of that division’s key personnel, core technologies, and certain trade secrets and royalty free licenses to use in connection with the manufacturing, developing marketing, and commercializing Copper-Indium-Gallium-diSelenide (“CIGS”) photovoltaic (“PV”) products.
We are an American solar technology company that manufactures and sells PV solar modules that are flexible, durable, and possess attractive power to weight and power to area performance. Our technology provides renewable power solutions to high-value production and specialty solar markets where traditional rigid solar panels are not suitable, including aerospace, agrivoltaics, and niche manufacturing/construction sectors. We operate in these target markets because they have highly specialized needs for power generation and offer attractive pricing due to the significant technological requirements.
We believe the value proposition of Ascent’s proprietary solar technology not only aligns with the needs of customers in our target markets, but also overcomes many of the obstacles other solar technologies face in these unique markets. Ascent designs and develops finished products for end users in these areas and collaborates with strategic partners to design and develop custom integrated solutions for products like airships and fixed-wing UAVs. Ascent sees significant overlap in the needs of end users across some of these markets and believes it can achieve economies of scale in sourcing, development, and production in commercializing products for these customers.
The integration of Ascent's solar modules into space, near space, and aeronautic vehicles with ultra-lightweight and flexible solar modules is an important market opportunity for the Company. Customers in this market have historically required a high level of durability, high voltage and conversion efficiency from solar module suppliers, and we believe our products are well suited to compete in this premium market.
In March 2008, we demonstrated initial operating capacity of our first production line by beginning production trials as an end-to-end integrated process. By July 2009, we obtained independent verification by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (“NREL”) that our modules of approximately 15 centimeters wide by 30 centimeters long measured 10.4% in conversion efficiency, which, by October 2009, NREL further verified our achievement of a manufacturing milestone of 14.0% cell efficiency as well as a peak efficiency of 11.4% for our CIGS modules. In October 2010, we completed internal qualification testing of a flexible packaging solution which successfully passed the rigorous standard of one thousand (1,000) hours of damp heat testing (85% relative humidity and 85° C temperature) guideline set forth by International Electrotechnical Commission (“IEC”) 61646 standards for performance and long-term reliability of thin film solar modules. And in December 2010, we achieved 12.1% module efficiency on the same form factor.
In February 2010, three of our product configurations were certified by an independent laboratory on a variety of U.S. Department of Defense (“DOD”) rugged standards known as MIL-STD-810G. In October 2010, we completed full external certification under IEC 61646 at an independent laboratory of a two-meter module. Achieving this certification is required for building integrated photovoltaic (“BIPV”) and building applied photovoltaic (“BAPV”) applications used in commercial, industrial and residential rooftop markets.
In March 2016, the Company announced a major breakthrough of our high-voltage superlight bare modules, achieving a power-to-weight ratio of 1,700 watts per kilogram at AM0 environment. What we believe is the “best-in-class” specific power is crucial to the aerospace industry where every pound of weight reduction would translate to incremental cost savings or increased in payloads. In December 2016, Ascent was selected by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (“JAXA”) as part of their next round of evaluations for providing solar technology for an upcoming mission to Jupiter, as well as to address additional missions. This decision followed an earlier round of investigation with promising results, during which the Company's flexible, monolithically integrated CIGS solar module was subjected to environmental extremes and continued to operate well. During the first phase of JAXA's evaluation, Ascent's PV was successfully tested below -146°C (-231°F) and up to +190°C (+374 °F), and to only 4% of the sunlight generally received in earth's orbit. In addition, JAXA has subjected Ascent's PV to radiation and mechanical testing.
During the third quarter of 2017, Ascent Solar demonstrated its breadth of capabilities at the US Special Operations Command (“SOCOM”) exclusive Technical Experimentation (“TE”) 17-3 Event in Washington, DC. SOCOM is tasked, by
the Department of Defense (“DoD”), with providing Special Operations Forces (“SOF”) with the latest war fighting technology available; in support of this effort, SOCOM sponsors an annual TE event. In July of 2017, SOCOM requested the participation of companies who have proficiency in the areas of Satellite Communication (“SATCOM”) and Unattended Ground Sensors (“UGS”) for a TE event. Ascent Solar was selected to participate on the basis and recognition that one of the primary issues facing the DoD today is the ability to power all of their war fighting technology. Ascent’s diverse line-up of rugged and lightweight portable solar products offers the potential for the DoD to generate unattended ongoing power, which could save lives and increase the efficiency of the war fighting effort. Ascent received an assessed score of a capability that has “high potential for SOF use with few limitations”.
During the third quarter of 2018, Ascent Solar was once again selected to demonstrate its breadth of capabilities at the SOCOM exclusive TE 18-3 Event in Washington, DC. In July of 2018, SOCOM requested the participation of companies who have proficiency in the areas of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (SUAS) and Mobility for the TE event.
During 2021, the ASTI team further advanced product acceptance into the highly stringent space market with demonstrated solar module survivability under the guidance of NASA Marshal Space Flight Center (MSFC) MISSE X flight experiment on the International Space Station (ISS), advancing our Technology Readiness Level (TRL) to 6, with subsequent flights in 2022-23, both NASA and commercial, intended to achieve TRL 7. TRL 8 is commonly accepted as space qualified. Also during 2021, the ASTI team was able to utilize an ultra-thin lamination made from the coating material used during MISSE X to build custom modules for a customer to be tested for a future flight.
On September 15, 2021, the Company entered into a Long-Term Supply and Joint Development Agreement (“JDA”) with TubeSolar AG (“TubeSolar”), a significant existing stakeholder in the Company. Under the terms of the JDA, the Company will produce, and TubeSolar will purchase, thin-film PV foils (“PV Foils”) for use in TubeSolar’s solar modules for agricultural photovoltaic (“APV”) applications that require solar foils for its production. Under the JDA, the Company will receive up (i) to $4 million of non-recurring engineering (“NRE”) fees, (ii) up to $13.5 million of payments upon achievement of certain agreed production and cost structure milestones, and (iii) product revenues from sales of PV Foils to TubeSolar. The JDA has no fixed term, and may only be terminated by either party for breach.
The Company and TubeSolar have also jointly established a subsidiary company in Germany, in which TubeSolar holds a minority stake of 30% (the “JV”). The purpose of the JV is to establish and operate a PV manufacturing facility in Germany that will produce and deliver PV Foils exclusively to TubeSolar. Until the JV facility is fully operational, PV Foils will be manufactured in the Company’s existing facility in Thornton, Colorado. The parties expect to jointly develop next generation tooling for use in manufacturing PV Foils at the JV facility. The Company purchased 17,500 shares of the JV for 1 Euro per share, on November 10, 2021.
Due to the high durability enabled by the monolithic integration employed by our technology, the capability to customize modules into different form factors and what we believe is the industry leading light weight and flexibility provided by our modules, we believe that the potential applications for our products are extensive, including integrated solutions anywhere that may need power generation such as portable power solutions, vehicles in space or in flight or dual-use installations on agricultural land and has developed the following ways to utilize this technology:
High-voltage SuperLight thin-film CIGS PV blankets. These 50W, fully laminated, flexible blankets were manufactured using a new process that was optimized for high performance in near-space conditions at elevated temperatures, and are custom designed for easy modular integration into series and parallel configurations to achieve the desired voltage and current required for such application.
USB-based portable power systems with the XD series. The first product introduced was the XD-12 which, like previous products, is a folding, lightweight, easily stowable, PV system with USB power regulation. Unique to this generation of PV portable power is more PV power (12 Watts) and a 2.0 Amp smart USB output to enable the XD-12 to charge most smartphones, tablets, and USB-enabled devices as fast as a wall outlet. The enhanced smart USB circuit works with the device to be charged so that the device can determine the maximum power it is able to receive from the XD-12 and ensures the best possible charging performance directly from the sun.
Micro-module for a space customer, approximately 12.8mm x 50mm (0.5in x 2.0in) in size that is ideal for both laboratory-scale environmental testing, and for subsequent integration into flight experiments.
Ultra-light modules with substrate material used by a European based customer for their lighter-than-air, helium-filled airship project. In 2019, we completed a repeat order from the same customer who had since established its airship
development operation in the US. In 2020, we received a third and enlarged order from the same customer and completed the order in the second quarter of 2021. Most recently, in the 4th quarter of 2021 we received a fourth order that was shipped in 2022.
Ultra-lightweight, flexible PV modules used in the flight of a production version of the Silent Falcon Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Small area test cells and large, 19.5cm x 30cm monolithically integrated modules, all on a very thin, 25-micron (0.001 inch) plastic substrate to be used in JAXA’s solar sail deployment demonstration project. The 19.5cm x 30cm module is a custom design to match the anticipated deployment mechanism and PV layout for the final Jovian spacecraft.
Commercialization and Manufacturing Strategy
We manufacture our products by affixing a thin CIGS layer to a flexible, plastic substrate using a large format, roll-to-roll process that permits us to fabricate our flexible PV modules in an integrated sequential operation. We use proprietary monolithic integration techniques which enable us to form complete PV modules with little to no costly back-end assembly of inter-cell connections. Traditional PV manufacturers assemble PV modules by bonding or soldering discrete PV cells together. This manufacturing step typically increases manufacturing costs and, at times, proves detrimental to the overall yield and reliability of the finished product. By reducing or eliminating this added step, using our proprietary monolithic integration techniques, we believe we can achieve cost savings in, and increase the reliability of, our PV modules.
Advantages of CIGS on a Flexible Plastic Substrate
Thin film PV solutions differ based on the type of semiconductor material chosen to act as a sunlight absorbing layer, and also on the type of substrate on which the sunlight absorbing layer is affixed. To the best of our knowledge, we believe we are the only company in the world currently focused on commercial scale production of PV modules using CIGS on a flexible, plastic substrate with monolithic integration. We utilize CIGS as a semiconductor material because, at the laboratory level, it has a higher demonstrated cell conversion efficiency than amorphous silicon (“a-Si”) and cadmium telluride (“CdTe”). We also believe CIGS offers other compelling advantages over both a-Si and CdTe, including:
CIGS versus a-Si: Although a-Si, like CIGS, can be deposited on a flexible substrate, its conversion efficiency, which already is generally much lower than that of CIGS, measurably degrades when it is exposed to ultraviolet light, including natural sunlight. To mitigate such degradation, manufacturers of a-Si solar cells are required to implement measures that add cost and complexity to their manufacturing processes.
CIGS versus CdTe: Although CdTe modules have achieved conversion efficiencies that are generally comparable to CIGS in production, we believe CdTe has never been successfully applied to a flexible substrate on a commercial scale. We believe the use of CdTe on a rigid, transparent substrate, such as glass, is unsuitable for a number of our applications. We also believe CIGS can achieve higher conversion efficiencies than CdTe in production.
We believe our choice of substrate material further differentiates us from other thin-film PV manufacturers. We believe the use of a flexible, lightweight, insulating substrate that is easier to install provides clear advantages for our target markets, especially where rigid substrates are unsuitable. We also believe our use of a flexible, plastic substrate provides us significant cost advantages because it enables us to employ monolithic integration techniques on larger components, which we believe are unavailable to manufacturers who use flexible, metal substrates. Accordingly, we are able to significantly reduce part count, thereby reducing the need for costly back end assembly of inter cell connections. As the only company, to our knowledge, focused on the commercial production of PV modules using CIGS on a flexible, plastic substrate with monolithic integration, we believe we have the opportunity to address the aerospace, agrivoltaics and other weight-sensitive markets with transformational high quality, value added product applications. It is these same unique features and our overall manufacturing process that enable us to produce extremely robust, light and flexible products.
We believe we possess a number of competitive strengths that provide us with an advantage over our competitors.
We are a pioneer in CIGS technology with a proprietary, flexible, lightweight, high efficiency PV thin film product that positions us to penetrate a wide range of attractive high value added markets such as aerospace and agrivoltaics. In addition, we have provided renewable power solutions for off grid, portable power, transportation, defense, and other markets. By applying CIGS to a flexible plastic substrate, we have developed a PV module that is efficient, lightweight and flexible; with the highest power-to-weight ratio in at-scale commercially available solar.
The market for space and near-space solar power application solutions, agrivoltaics, portable power systems, and transportation integrated applications represent a significant premium market for the Company. Relative to our thin film competitors, we believe our advantage in thin film CIGS on plastic technology provides us with a superior product offering for these strategic market segments.
We have the ability to manufacture PV modules for different markets and for customized applications without altering our production processes. Our ability to produce PV modules in customized shapes and sizes, or in a variety of shapes and sizes simultaneously, without interrupting production flow, provides us with flexibility in addressing target markets and product applications, and allows us to respond quickly to changing market conditions. Many of our competitors are limited by their technology and/or their manufacturing processes to a more restricted set of product opportunities.
Our integrated, roll-to-roll manufacturing process and proprietary monolithic integration techniques provide us a potential cost advantage over our competitors. Historically, manufacturers have formed PV modules by manufacturing individual solar cells and then interconnecting them. Our large format, roll-to-roll manufacturing process allows for integrated continuous production. In addition, our proprietary monolithic integration techniques allow us to utilize laser patterning to create interconnects, thereby creating PV modules at the same time we create PV cells. In so doing, we are able to reduce or eliminate an entire back end processing step, saving time as well as labor and manufacturing costs relative to our competitors.
Our lightweight, powerful, and durable solar panels provide a performance advantage over our competitors. For applications where a premium is placed on the weight and profile of the product, our ability to integrate our PV modules into portable packages offers the customer a lightweight and durable solution for all their portable electronics.
Our proven research and development capabilities position us to continue the development of next generation PV modules and technologies. Our ability to produce CIGS based PV modules on a flexible plastic substrate is the result of a concerted research and development effort that began more than 20 years ago. We continue to pursue research and development in an effort to drive efficiency improvements in our current PV modules and to work toward next generation technologies and additional applications.
Our manufacturing process can be differentiated into two distinct functions; a front-end module manufacturing process and a back-end packaging process. Our ability to produce finished unpackaged rolls of CIGS material for shipment worldwide to customers for encapsulation and integration into various products enhances our ability to work with partners internationally and domestically.
Markets and Marketing Strategy
We target high-value specialty solar markets including aerospace and agrivoltaics applications. This strategy enables us to fully leverage the unique advantages of our technology, including flexibility, durability and attractive power to weight and power to area performance. It further enables us to offer unique, differentiated solutions in large markets with less competition, and more attractive pricing.
We believe the value proposition of Ascent’s proprietary solar technology not only aligns with the needs of customers in these markets, but also overcomes many of the obstacles other solar technologies face in these unique markets. Ascent has the capability to design and develop finished products for end users in these areas as well as collaborate with strategic partners to design and develop custom integrated solutions for products like airships and fixed-wing UAVs. Ascent sees significant overlap in the needs of end users across some of these verticals and believes it can achieve economies of scale in sourcing, development, and production in commercializing products for these customers.
We believe our thin film, monolithically integrated CIGS technology enables us to deliver sleek, lightweight, rugged, high performance solutions to serve these markets as competitors from other thin film and c-Si companies emerge. The landscape of thin film manufacturers encompasses a broad mix of technology platforms at various stages of development and consists of a number of medium and small companies.
The market for traditional, grid connected PV products is dominated by large manufacturers of c-Si technology, although thin film technology on glass has begun to emerge among the major players. We anticipate that while these large manufacturers may continue to dominate the market with their silicon-based products, thin film manufacturers will likely capture an increasingly larger share of the market, as is evident from the success of First Solar (CdTe).
We believe that our modules offer unique advantages. Their flexibility, low areal density (mass per unit area), and high specific power (power per unit mass) enable use on weight-sensitive applications, such as portable power, conformal aircraft surfaces, high altitude long endurance (HALE) fixed wing and lighter than air (LTA) vehicles, and space applications that are unsuitable for glass-based modules. Innovative product design, customer focused development, and our rapid prototyping capability yield modules that could be integrated into virtually any product to create a source of renewable energy. Whether compared to glass based or other flexible modules, our products offer competitive advantages making them unique in comparison to competing products. We consider PowerFilm Solar, Global Solar, MiaSolé, and Flisom to be our closest competitors in terms of technology in the specialty PV market.
Research and Development and Intellectual Property
Our technology was initially developed at ITN beginning in 1994. In early 2006, ITN assigned to us certain CIGS PV-specific technologies, and granted to us a perpetual, exclusive, royalty free, worldwide license to use these technologies in connection with the manufacture, development, marketing and commercialization of CIGS PV to produce solar power. In addition, certain of ITN’s existing and future proprietary process and control technologies, although nonspecific to CIGS PV, were assigned to us. ITN retained the right to conduct research and development activities in connection with PV materials, and we agreed to grant a license back to ITN for improvements to the licensed technologies and intellectual property outside of the CIGS PV field.
We intend to continue to invest in research and development in order to provide near term improvements to our manufacturing process (including to reduce costs) and products (including improve technology to increase efficiency), as well as to identify next generation technologies relevant to both our existing and potential new markets. During the years ended December 31, 2022 and 2021 we incurred approximately $5,975,921 and $4,140,319, respectively, in research, development and manufacturing operations costs, which include research and development incurred in customizing products for customers, as well as manufacturing costs incurred while developing our product lines and manufacturing process. We also plan to continue to take advantage of research and development contracts to fund a portion of this development.
We protect our intellectual property through a combination of trade secrets and patent protections. We own the following patents:
US Patent No. 9,640,692 entitled "Flexible Photovoltaic Array with Integrated Wiring and Control Circuitry, and Associated Methods" (issued October 12, 2010) (co-owned with PermaCity Corporation)
US Patent No. 8,426,725 entitled “Apparatus and Method for Hybrid Photovoltaic Device Having Multiple, Stacked, Heterogeneous, Semiconductor Junctions” (issued April 23, 2013)
US Patent No. 8,465,589 entitled “Machine and Process for Sequential Multi-Sublayer Deposition of Copper Indium Gallium Diselenide Compound Semiconductors” (issued June 18, 2013)
US Patent No. D697,502 entitled "Mobile Electronic Device Case” (issued January 14, 2014)
US Patent No. 8,648,253 entitled “Machine and Process for Continuous, Sequential, Deposition of Semiconductor Solar Absorbers Having Variable Semiconductor Composition Deposited in Multiple Sublayers” (issued February 11, 2014)
US Patent No. 9,538,671 entitled "System For Housing And Powering A Battery-Operated Device And Associated Methods" (issued January 3, 2017)
US Patent No. D781,228 entitled "Pocket-Sized Photovoltaic Based Fully Integrated Portable Power System" (issued March 14, 2017)
US Patent No. 9,601,650 entitled "Machine and Process for Continuous, Sequential, Deposition of Semiconductor Solar Absorbers Having Variable Semiconductor Composition Deposited in Multiple Sublayers" (issued March 21, 2017)
US Patent No. 9,634,175 entitled "Systems and Methods for Thermally Managing High-Temperature Processes on Temperature Sensitive Substrates" (issued April 25, 2017)
US Patent No. 9,640,706 entitled "Hybrid Multi-Junction Photovoltaic Cells and Associated Methods" (issued May 2, 2017)
US Patent No. 9,640,692 entitled "Flexible Photovoltaic Array with Integrated Wiring and Control Circuitry, and Associated Methods" (issued May 2, 2017)
US Patent No. 9,653,635 entitled Flexible High-Voltage Adaptable Current Photovoltaic Modules and Associated Methods (issued May 16, 2017)
US Patent No. 9,780,242 entitled “Multilayer Thin-Film Back Contact System for Flexible Photovoltaic Devices on Polymer Substrates” (issued October 3, 2017)
US Patent No. 9,929,306 entitled "Array of Monolithically Integrated Thin Film Photovoltaic Cells and Associated Methods" (issued March 27, 2018)
We rely on several unaffiliated companies to supply certain raw materials used during the fabrication of our PV modules and PV integrated electronics. We acquire these materials on a purchase order basis and do not have long term purchase quantity commitments with the suppliers, although we may enter into such contracts in the future. We currently acquire all of our high temperature plastic from one supplier, although alternative suppliers of similar materials exist. We purchase component molybdenum, copper, indium, gallium, selenium and indium tin oxides from a variety of suppliers. We also currently are in the process of identifying and negotiating arrangements with alternative suppliers of materials in the United States and Asia.
The manufacturing equipment and tools used in our production process have been purchased from various suppliers in Europe, the United States and Asia. Although we have had good relations with our existing equipment and tools suppliers, we monitor and explore opportunities for developing alternative sources to drive our manufacturing costs down.
As of December 31, 2022, we had 60 full-time and 2 part-time employees.
We were formed in October 2005 from the separation by ITN of its Advanced Photovoltaic Division and all of that division’s key personnel and core technologies. ITN, a private company incorporated in 1994, is an incubator dedicated to the development of thin film, PV, battery, fuel cell and nanotechnologies. Through its work on research and development contracts for private and government entities, ITN developed proprietary processing and manufacturing know-how applicable to PV products generally, and to CIGS PV products in particular. Our Company was established by ITN to commercialize its investment in CIGS PV technologies. In January 2006, ITN assigned to us all its CIGS PV technologies and trade secrets and granted to us a perpetual, exclusive, royalty free worldwide license to use certain of ITN’s proprietary process, control and design technologies in the production of CIGS PV modules. Upon receipt of the necessary government approvals in January 2007, ITN assigned government funded research and development contracts to us and also transferred the key personnel working on the contracts to us.
We were incorporated under the laws of Delaware in October 2005. Our principal business office is located at 12300 Grant Street, Thornton, Colorado 80241, and our telephone number is (720) 872-5000. Our website address is www.AscentSolar.com. Information contained on our website or any other website does not constitute, and should not be considered, part of this Annual Report.
We file with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) our annual report on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K and all amendments to those reports, proxy statements and registration statements. Such filings are available to the public over the internet at the SEC’s website at http://www.sec.gov. We make available free of charge on, or through, our website at www.AscentSolar.com our annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K and amendments to these reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the
Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (“Exchange Act”) as soon as reasonably practicable after we file these materials with the SEC.
Item 1A. Risk Factors
The risks included here are not exhaustive or exclusive. Other sections of this Annual Report may include additional factors which could adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial performance. We operate in a very competitive and rapidly changing environment. New risk factors emerge from time to time, and it is not possible for management to predict all such risk factors, nor can it assess the impact of all such risk factors on our business or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements. Given these risks and uncertainties, investors should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements as a prediction of actual results.
Risks related to the Coronavirus and COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States and world-wide has caused business disruption which may negatively impact the Company’s operations and financial results. Public health officials have recommended and mandated precautions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including prohibitions on travel, congregating in heavily populated areas and stat-at-home orders or similar measures.
The COVID-19 pandemic affected the Company in many ways just as the whole world experienced. These included but were not limited to:
Severe disruption to our restructuring and recapitalization efforts due to travel restrictions and lock-down measures implemented by authorities across the globe;
Disruption to workforce scheduling and recruitment initiatives after new capital was secured;
Longer lead time and higher cost in raw materials and equipment parts;
Raising labor cost in line with overall inflation witnessed across the nation; and
Extended products and development cycle and longer delivery time to our customers.
These and other impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic could have the effect of heightening many of the other risk factors disclosed in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. The ultimate impact depends on the severity and duration of the current COVID-19 pandemic and actions taken by governmental authorities and other third parties in response, each of which is uncertain, rapidly changing and difficult to predict. Any of these disruptions could adversely impact our business and results of operations.
Risks Relating to Our Business
Our continuing operations will require additional capital which we may not be able to obtain on favorable terms, if at all, or without dilution to our stockholders. Since inception, we have incurred significant losses. We expect to continue to incur net losses in the near term. For the year ended December 31, 2022, our cash used in operations was $10,506,575. At December 31, 2022, we had cash and equivalents on hand of $11,483,018.
Although we have commenced production at our manufacturing facility, we do not expect that sales revenue and cash flows will be sufficient to support operations and cash requirements until we have fully implemented our new strategy of focusing on high value PV products. Product revenues did not result in a positive cash flow for the 2022 year, and are not anticipated to result in a positive cash flow for the next twelve months.
During 2022, we entered into multiple financing agreements to fund operations, raising approximately $16 million in net proceeds. We do not expect that sales revenue and cash flows will be sufficient to support operations and cash requirements for the foreseeable future, and we will depend on raising additional capital to maintain operations until we become profitable. There is no assurance that we will be able to raise additional capital on acceptable terms or at all. If we raise additional funds through the issuance of equity or convertible debt securities, the percentage ownership of our existing stockholders could be significantly diluted, and these newly issued securities may have rights, preferences or privileges senior to those of existing stockholders. If we raise additional funds through debt financing, which may involve restrictive covenants, our ability to operate our business may be restricted. If adequate funds are not available or are not available on acceptable terms, if and when needed, our ability to fund our operations, take advantage of unanticipated opportunities, develop or enhance our products, expand capacity or otherwise respond to competitive pressures could be significantly limited, and our business, results of operations and financial condition could be materially and adversely affected.
Our auditors have expressed substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern. Our auditors’ report on our December 31, 2022 financial statements expresses an opinion that our capital resources as of the date of their audit
report were not sufficient to sustain operations or complete our planned activities for the year 2023 unless we raised additional funds. Additionally, as a result of the Company’s recurring losses from operations, and the need for additional financing to fund its operating and capital requirements, there is uncertainty regarding the Company’s ability to maintain liquidity sufficient to operate its business effectively, which raises doubt as to the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern. Management cannot provide any assurances that the Company will be successful in accomplishing any of its plans. Our December 31, 2022 financial statements do not include any adjustments that might be necessary should the Company be unable to continue as a going concern.
We have a limited history of operations, have not generated significant revenue from operations and have had limited production of our products. We have a limited operating history and have generated limited revenue from operations. Currently we are producing products in quantities necessary to meet current demand. Under our current business plan, we expect losses to continue until annual revenues and gross margins reach a high enough level to cover operating expenses. Our ability to achieve our business, commercialization and expansion objectives will depend on a number of factors, including whether:
We can generate customer acceptance of and demand for our products;
We successfully ramp up commercial production on the equipment installed;
Our products are successfully and timely certified for use in our target markets;
We successfully operate production tools to achieve the efficiencies, throughput and yield necessary to reach our cost targets;
The products we design are saleable at a price sufficient to generate profits;
We raise sufficient capital to enable us to reach a level of sales sufficient to achieve profitability on terms favorable to us;
We are able to successfully design, manufacture, market, distribute and sell our products;
We effectively manage the planned ramp up of our operations;
We successfully develop and maintain strategic relationships with key partners, including OEMs, system integrators and distributors, who deal directly with end users in our target markets;
Our ability to maintain the listing of our common stock on the Nasdaq Capital Market;
Our ability to achieve projected operational performance and cost metrics;
Our ability to enter into commercially viable licensing, joint venture, or other commercial arrangements; and
The availability of raw materials.
Each of these factors is critical to our success and accomplishing each of these tasks may take longer or cost more than expected or may never be accomplished. It also is likely that problems we cannot now anticipate will arise. If we cannot overcome these problems, our business, results of operations and financial condition could be materially and adversely affected.
We have to date incurred net losses and may be unable to generate sufficient sales in the future to become profitable. We incurred a net loss of $19,754,705 for the year ended December 31, 2022 and reported an accumulated deficit of $447,537,493 as of December 31, 2022. We expect to incur net losses in the near term. Our ability to achieve profitability depends on a number of factors, including market acceptance of our specialty PV products at competitive prices. If we are unable to raise additional capital and generate sufficient revenue to achieve profitability and positive cash flows, we may be unable to satisfy our commitments and may have to discontinue operations.
Our business is based on a new technology, and if our PV modules or processes fail to achieve the performance and cost metrics that we expect, then we may be unable to develop demand for our PV modules and generate sufficient revenue to support our operations. Our CIGS on flexible plastic substrate technology is a relatively new technology. Our business plan and strategies assume that we will be able to achieve certain milestones and metrics in terms of throughput, uniformity of cell efficiencies, yield, encapsulation, packaging, cost and other production parameters. We cannot assure you that our technology will prove to be commercially viable in accordance with our plan and strategies. Further, we or our strategic partners and licensees may experience operational problems with such technology after its commercial introduction that could delay or defeat the ability of such technology to generate revenue or operating profits. If we are unable to achieve our targets on time and within our planned budget, then we may not be able to develop adequate demand for our PV modules, and our business, results of operations and financial condition could be materially and adversely affected.
Our failure to further refine our technology and develop and introduce improved PV products could render our PV modules uncompetitive or obsolete and reduce our net sales and market share. Our success requires us to invest significant financial resources in research and development to keep pace with technological advances in the solar energy industry. However, research and development activities are inherently uncertain, and we could encounter practical difficulties in commercializing our research results. Our expenditures on research and development may not be sufficient to produce the desired technological advances, or they may not produce corresponding benefits. Our PV modules may be rendered obsolete by the technological advances of our competitors, which could harm our results of operations and adversely impact our net sales and market share.
Failure to expand our manufacturing capability successfully at our facilities would adversely impact our ability to sell our products into our target markets and would materially and adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition. Our growth plan calls for production and operations at our facility. Successful operations will require substantial engineering and manufacturing resources and are subject to significant risks, including risks of cost overruns, delays and other risks, such as geopolitical unrest that may cause us not to be able to successfully operate in other countries. Furthermore, we may never be able to operate our production processes in high volume or at the volumes projected, make planned process and equipment improvements, attain projected manufacturing yields or desired annual capacity, obtain timely delivery of components, or hire and train the additional employees and management needed to scale our operations. Failure to meet these objectives on time and within our planned budget could materially and adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
We may be unable to manage the expansion of our operations and strategic alliances effectively. We will need to significantly expand our operations and form beneficial strategic alliances in order to reduce manufacturing costs through economies of scale and partnerships, secure contracts of commercially material amounts with reputable customers and capture a meaningful share of our target markets. To date, we have not successfully formed such strategic alliances and can give no assurances that we will be able to do so. To manage the expansion of our operations and alliances, we will be required to improve our operational and financial systems, oversight, procedures and controls and expand, train and manage our growing employee base. Our management team will also be required to maintain and cultivate our relationships with partners, customers, suppliers and other third parties and attract new partners, customers and suppliers. In addition, our current and planned operations, personnel, facility size and configuration, systems and internal procedures and controls, even when augmented through strategic alliances, might be inadequate or insufficient to support our future growth. If we cannot manage our growth effectively, we may be unable to take advantage of market opportunities, execute our business strategies or respond to competitive pressures, resulting in a material and adverse effect to our business, results of operations and financial condition.
We depend on a limited number of third-party suppliers for key raw materials, and their failure to perform could cause manufacturing delays and impair our ability to deliver PV modules to customers in the required quality and quantity and at a price that is profitable to us. Our failure to obtain raw materials and components that meet our quality, quantity and cost requirements in a timely manner could interrupt or impair our ability to manufacture our products or increase our manufacturing cost. Most of our key raw materials are either sole sourced or sourced by a limited number of third-party suppliers. As a result, the failure of any of our suppliers to perform could disrupt our supply chain and impair our operations. Many of our suppliers are small companies that may be unable to supply our increasing demand for raw materials as we implement our planned expansion. We may be unable to identify new suppliers in a timely manner or on commercially reasonable terms. Raw materials from new suppliers may also be less suited for our technology and yield PV modules with lower conversion efficiencies, higher failure rates and higher rates of degradation than PV modules manufactured with the raw materials from our current suppliers.
Our products may never gain sufficient market acceptance, in which case we would be unable to sell our products or achieve profitability. Demand for our products may never develop sufficiently, and our products may never gain market acceptance, if we fail to produce products that compare favorably against competing products on the basis of cost, quality, weight, efficiency and performance. Demand for our products also will depend on our ability to develop and maintain successful relationships with key partners, including distributors, retailers, OEMs, system integrators and value-added resellers. If our products fail to gain market acceptance as quickly as we envision or at all, our business, results of operations and financial condition could be materially and adversely affected.
We are targeting emerging markets for a significant portion of our planned product sales. These markets are new and may not develop as rapidly as we expect or may not develop at all. Our target markets include agrivoltaics, space and near space markets. Although certain areas of these markets have started to develop, some of them are in their infancy. We believe these markets have significant long-term potential; however, some or all of these markets may not develop and emerge as we expect. If the markets do develop as expected, there may be other products that could provide a superior product or a comparable product at lower prices than our products. If these markets do not develop as we expect, or if competitors are better able to capitalize on these markets our revenues and product margins may be negatively affected.
Failure to consummate strategic relationships with key partners in our various target market segments, such as defense and portable power, transportation, space and near space, and the respective implementations of the right strategic partnerships to enter these various specified markets, could adversely affect our projected sales, growth and revenues. We intend to sell thin-film PV modules for use in portable power systems, defense and portable power systems, transportation, agrivoltaics, space and near space solar panel applications. Our marketing and distribution strategy is to form strategic relationships with distributors, value added resellers and e-commerce to provide a foothold in these target markets. If we are unable to successfully establish working relationships with such market participants or if, due to cost, technical or other factors, our products prove unsuitable for use in such applications; our projected revenues and operating results could be adversely affected.
If sufficient demand for our products does not develop or takes longer to develop than we anticipate, we may be unable to grow our business, generate sufficient revenue to attain profitability or continue operations. The solar energy industry is currently dominated by the rigid crystalline silicon based technology. The extent to which our flexible thin film PV modules will be widely adopted is uncertain. Many factors, of which several are outside of our control, may affect the viability of widespread adoption and demand for our flexible PV modules.
We face intense competition from other manufacturers of thin-film PV modules and other companies in the solar energy industry. The solar energy and renewable energy industries are both highly competitive and continually evolving as participants strive to distinguish themselves within their markets and compete with the larger electric power industry. We believe our main sources of competition are other thin film PV manufacturers and companies developing other solar solutions, such as solar thermal and concentrated PV technologies.
Many of our existing and potential competitors have substantially greater financial, technical, manufacturing and other resources than we do. A competitor’s greater size provides them with a competitive advantage because they often can realize economies of scale and purchase certain raw materials at lower prices. Many of our competitors also have greater brand name recognition, established distribution networks and large customer bases. In addition, many of our competitors have well-established relationships with our current and potential partners and distributors and have extensive knowledge of our target markets. As a result of their greater size, these competitors may be able to devote more resources to the research, development, promotion and sale of their products or respond more quickly to evolving industry standards and changes in market conditions than we can. Our failure to adapt to changing market conditions and to compete successfully with existing or future competitors could materially and adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Problems with product quality or performance may cause us to incur warranty expenses, damage our market reputation and prevent us from maintaining or increasing our market share. If our products fail to perform as expected while under warranty, or if we are unable to support the warranties, sales of our products may be adversely affected or our costs may increase, and our business, results of operations and financial condition could be materially and adversely affected.
We may also be subject to warranty or product liability claims against us that are not covered by insurance or are in excess of our available insurance limits. In addition, quality issues can have various other ramifications, including delays in the recognition of revenue, loss of revenue, loss of future sales opportunities, increased costs associated with repairing or replacing products, and a negative impact on our goodwill and reputation. The possibility of future product failures could cause us to incur substantial expenses to repair or replace defective products. Furthermore, widespread product failures may damage our market reputation and reduce our market share causing sales to decline.
Currency translation risk may negatively affect our net sales, cost of equipment, cost of sales, gross margin or profitability and could result in exchange losses. Although our reporting currency is the U.S. dollar, we may conduct
business and incur costs in the local currencies of other countries in which we operate, make sales or buy equipment or materials. As a result, we are subject to currency translation risk. Our future contracts and obligations may be exposed to fluctuations in currency exchange rates, and, as a result, our capital expenditures or other costs may exceed what we have budgeted. Further, changes in exchange rates between foreign currencies and the U.S. dollar could affect our net sales and cost of sales and could result in exchange losses. We cannot accurately predict future exchange rates or the overall impact of future exchange rate fluctuations on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
A significant increase in the price of our raw materials could lead to higher overall costs of production, which would negatively affect our planned product margins, or make our products uncompetitive in the PV market. Our raw materials include high temperature plastics and various metals. Significant increases in the costs of these raw materials may impact our ability to compete in our target markets at a price sufficient to produce a profit.
Our intellectual property rights or our means of enforcing those rights may be inadequate to protect our business, which may result in the unauthorized use of our products or reduced sales or otherwise reduce our ability to compete. Our business and competitive position depends upon our ability to protect our intellectual property rights and proprietary technology, including any PV modules that we develop. We attempt to protect our intellectual property rights, primarily in the United States, through a combination of patent, trade secret and other intellectual property laws, as well as licensing agreements and third-party nondisclosure and assignment agreements. Because of the differences in foreign patent and other laws concerning intellectual property rights, our intellectual property rights may not receive the same degree of protection in foreign countries as they would in the United States. Our failure to obtain or maintain adequate protection of our intellectual property rights, for any reason, could have a materially adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. Further, any patents issued in connection with our efforts to develop new technology for PV modules may not be broad enough to protect all of the potential uses of our technology.
We also rely on unpatented proprietary technology. It is possible others will independently develop the same or similar technology or otherwise obtain access to our unpatented technology. To protect our trade secrets and other proprietary information, we require our employees, consultants and advisors to execute proprietary information and invention assignment agreements when they begin working for us. We cannot assure these agreements will provide meaningful protection of our trade secrets, unauthorized use, misappropriation or disclosure of trade secrets, know how or other proprietary information. Despite our efforts to protect this information, unauthorized parties may attempt to obtain and use information that we regard as proprietary. If we are unable to maintain the proprietary nature of our technologies, we could be materially adversely affected.
In addition, when others control the prosecution, maintenance and enforcement of certain important intellectual property, such as technology licensed to us, the protection and enforcement of the intellectual property rights may be outside of our control. If the entity that controls intellectual property rights that are licensed to us does not adequately protect those rights, our rights may be impaired, which may impact our ability to develop, market and commercialize our products. Further, if we breach the terms of any license agreement pursuant to which a third party licenses us intellectual property rights, our rights under that license may be affected and we may not be able to continue to use the licensed intellectual property rights, which could adversely affect our ability to develop, market and commercialize our products.
Third-party claims of intellectual property infringement may negatively impact the Company and the Company’s future financial results. The Company’s commercial success depends in part on its ability to develop, manufacture, market and sell its products and use its proprietary technology without infringing the patent rights of third parties. Numerous third-party U.S. and non-U.S. issued patents and pending applications exist in the area of the Company’s products. The Company may in the future pursue available proceedings in the U.S. and foreign patent offices to challenge the validity of patents and patent applications. In addition, or alternatively, the Company may consider whether to seek to negotiate a license of rights to technology covered by one or more of such patents and patent applications. If any patents or patent applications cover the Company’s products or technologies, the Company may not be free to manufacture or market its products as planned, absent such a license, which may not be available to the Company on commercially reasonable terms, or at all.
It is also possible that the Company has failed to identify relevant third-party patents or applications. For example, some applications may be held under government secrecy and US patent applications that will not be filed outside the United States remain confidential unless and until patents issue. Moreover, it is difficult for industry participants, including the Company, to identify all third-party patent rights that may be relevant to its product candidates and technologies because patent searching is imperfect due to differences in terminology among patents, incomplete databases and the difficulty in assessing the meaning of patent claims. The Company may fail to identify relevant patents or patent applications or may identify pending patent applications of potential interest but incorrectly predict the likelihood that such patents may issue with claims of relevance to its technology. In addition, the Company may be unaware of one or more issued patents that would be infringed by the
manufacture, sale or use of a current or future products, or the Company may incorrectly conclude that a third-party patent is invalid, unenforceable or not infringed by its activities. Additionally, pending patent applications that have been published can, subject to specified limitations, be later amended in a manner that could cover the Company’s technologies, its products or the use of its products.
There have been many lawsuits and other proceedings filed by third parties involving patent and other intellectual property rights, including patent infringement lawsuits, interferences, oppositions, and reexamination, post-grant review and equivalent proceedings before the USPTO and corresponding foreign patent offices. Numerous U.S. and foreign issued patents and pending patent applications, which are owned by third parties, exist in the fields in which the Company is developing products or has existing products. As the industries the Company is involved in expand and more patents are issued, the risk increases that its product candidates may be subject to claims of infringement of the patent rights of third parties.
Parties making claims against the Company may obtain injunctive or other equitable relief, which could effectively block its ability to further develop and commercialize the Company’s products. Defense of these claims, regardless of their merit, would involve substantial litigation expense and would be a substantial diversion of employee resources from the Company’s business. In the event of a successful claim of infringement against the Company, the Company may have to pay substantial damages, including treble damages and attorneys’ fees for willful infringement, pay royalties, redesign its infringing products or obtain one or more licenses from third parties, which may be impossible or require substantial time and monetary expenditure.
Our future success depends on retaining our Chief Executive Officer and existing management team and hiring and assimilating new key employees, and our inability to attract or retain key personnel would materially harm our business and results of operations. Our success depends on the continuing efforts and abilities of our executive officers, including Mr. Jeffrey Max, our President and Chief Executive Officer, our other executive officers, and key technical personnel. Our future success also will depend on our ability to attract and retain highly skilled employees, including management, technical and sales personnel. The loss of any of our key personnel, the inability to attract, retain or assimilate key personnel in the future, or delays in hiring required personnel could materially harm our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Our PV modules contain limited amounts of cadmium sulfide and claims of human exposure or future regulations could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. Our PV modules contain limited amounts of cadmium sulfide, which is regulated as a hazardous material due to the adverse health effects that may arise from human exposure and is banned in certain countries. We cannot assure you that human or environmental exposure to cadmium sulfide used in our PV modules will not occur. Any such exposure could result in third party claims against us, damage to our reputation and heightened regulatory scrutiny of our PV modules. Future regulation relating to the use of cadmium in various products could force us to seek regulatory exemptions or impact the manufacture and sale of our PV modules and could require us to incur unforeseen environmental related costs. The occurrence of future events such as these could limit our ability to sell and distribute our PV modules, and could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Environmental obligations and liabilities could have a substantial negative impact on our financial condition, cash flows and profitability. We are subject to a variety of federal, state, local and foreign laws and regulations relating to the protection of the environment, including those governing the use, handling, generation, processing, storage, transportation and disposal of, or human exposure to, hazardous and toxic materials (such as the cadmium used in our products), the discharge of pollutants into the air and water, and occupational health and safety. We are also subject to environmental laws which allow regulatory authorities to compel, or seek reimbursement for, cleanup of environmental contamination at sites now or formerly owned or operated by us and at facilities where our waste is or has been disposed. We may incur significant costs and capital expenditures in complying with these laws and regulations. In addition, violations of, or liabilities under, environmental laws or permits may result in restrictions being imposed on our operating activities or in our being subjected to substantial fines, penalties, criminal proceedings, third party property damage or personal injury claims, cleanup costs or other costs. Also, future developments such as more aggressive enforcement policies, the implementation of new, more stringent laws and regulations, or the discovery of presently unknown environmental conditions or noncompliance may require expenditures that could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. Further, greenhouse gas emissions have increasingly become the subject of international, national, state and local attention. Although future regulations could potentially lead to an increased use of alternative energy, there can be no guarantee that such future regulations will encourage solar technology. Given our limited history of operations, it is difficult to predict future environmental expenses.
We currently anticipate having substantial international operations that will subject us to a number of risks, including potential unfavorable political, regulatory, labor and tax conditions in foreign countries. We entered into the JDA with TubeSolar, a related party (see “Item 1 Business” for additional detail), and expect to expand our operations abroad
in the future and, as a result, we may be subject to the legal, political, social and regulatory requirements and economic conditions of foreign jurisdictions. Risks inherent to international operations, include, but are not limited to, the following:
Difficulty in procuring supplies and supply contracts abroad;
Difficulty in enforcing agreements in foreign legal systems;
Foreign countries imposing additional withholding taxes or otherwise taxing our foreign income, imposing tariffs or adopting other restrictions on foreign trade and investment, including currency exchange controls;
Inability to obtain, maintain or enforce intellectual property rights;
Risk of nationalization;
Changes in general economic and political conditions in the countries in which we may operate, including changes in the government incentives we might rely on;
Unexpected adverse changes in foreign laws or regulatory requirements, including those with respect to environmental protection, export duties and quotas;
Difficulty with staffing and managing widespread operations;
Trade barriers such as export requirements, tariffs, taxes and other restrictions and expenses, which could increase the prices of our products and make us less competitive in some countries; and
Difficulty of, and costs relating to, compliance with the different commercial and legal requirements of the international markets in which we plan to offer and sell our PV products.
Our business in foreign markets will require us to respond to rapid changes in market conditions in these countries. Our overall success as an international business depends, in part, on our ability to succeed in differing legal, regulatory, economic, social and political conditions. If we are not able to develop and implement policies and strategies that are effective in each location where we will do business, then our business, results of operations and financial condition could be materially and adversely affected.
Existing regulations and policies and changes to these regulations and policies may present technical, regulatory and economic barriers to the purchase and use of PV products, which may significantly reduce demand for our PV products. The market for electricity generation products is heavily influenced by foreign, U.S., state and local government regulations and policies concerning the electric utility industry, as well as policies promulgated by electric utilities. These regulations and policies often relate to electricity pricing and technical interconnection of customer owned electricity generation. In the United States and in a number of other countries, these regulations and policies have been modified in the past and may be modified again in the future. These regulations and policies could deter end user purchases of PV products and investment in the research and development of PV technology. For example, without a mandated regulatory exception for PV systems, utility customers are often charged interconnection or standby fees for putting distributed power generation on the electric utility grid. These fees could increase the cost to our end users of using PV systems and make them less desirable, thereby harming our business, prospects, results of operations and financial condition. In addition, electricity generated by PV systems mostly competes with expensive peak hour electricity, rather than the less expensive average price of electricity. Modifications to the peak hour pricing policies of utilities, such as to a flat rate, would require PV systems to achieve lower prices in order to compete with the price of electricity from other sources.
We anticipate that our PV modules and their use in installations will be subject to oversight and regulation in accordance with national and local ordinances relating to building codes, safety, environmental protection, utility interconnection and metering and related matters. It is difficult to track the requirements of individual states and design equipment to comply with the varying standards. Any new government regulations or utility policies pertaining to PV modules may result in significant additional expenses to us, our business partners and their customers and, as a result, could cause a significant reduction in demand for our PV modules.
We may be subject to risks related to our information technology systems, including the risk that we may be the subject of a cyber-attack and the risk that we may be in non-compliance with applicable privacy laws. Our operations depend, in part, on how well we and our vendors protect networks, equipment, information technology (IT) systems, and software against damage from a number of threats, including, but not limited to, cable cuts, damage to physical plants, natural disasters, intentional damage and destruction, fire, power loss, hacking, computer viruses, vandalism, theft, malware, ransomware and phishing attacks. Any of these and other events could result in IT system failures, delays, or increases in capital expenses. Our operations also depend on the timely maintenance, upgrade, and replacement of networks, equipment, and IT systems and software, as well as preemptive expenses to mitigate the risks of failures. The failure of IT systems or a component of IT systems could, depending on the nature of any such failure, adversely impact our reputation and results of operations.
As long as our significant stockholders, BD 1 Investment Holding, LLC (“BD1”), Crowdex Investment, LLC (“Crowdex”) and TubeSolar, maintain their current holdings, the ability of our other stockholders to influence matters requiring stockholder approval will be limited. As of March 10, 2023, BD1 beneficially owned 15,433,334 shares of our common stock, Crowdex beneficially owned 5,545,042 shares of our common stock, and TubeSolar beneficially owned 4,920,000 shares of our common stock. As of March 10, 2023, the Company had approximately 36,928,917 shares of common stock outstanding. Accordingly, BD1, Crowdex, and TubeSolar together would be able to cast approximately 70.1% of the votes entitled to vote at any meeting of stockholders of the Company (or written consent of stockholders in lieu of meeting). BD1, Crowdex, and TubeSolar, therefore, will, for the foreseeable future, have significant influence over our management and affairs, and will be able to control virtually all matters requiring stockholder approval, including the election of directors and significant corporate transactions such as mergers or sales of our Company or assets. On September 15, 2021, the Company entered into the JDA with TubeSolar. See “Item 1 Business” for additional detail.
The interests of our three largest stockholders may conflict with our interests or your interests now or in the future. Three of our stockholders, Crowdex, TubeSolar and BD1, collectively beneficially own approximately 70.1% of our Company’s common stock.
Crowdex is an investment holding company 100% directly and indirectly beneficially owned by Bernd Förtsch. One of our directors, David Peterson, is the manager of Crowdex.
TubeSolar is a developer of photovoltaic thin-film tubes to enable additional application opportunities in solar power generation compared to conventional solar modules. TubeSolar is a public company headquartered in Augsburg, Germany, whose shares are listed on XETRA (primary market Dusseldorf, Germany). Bernd Förtsch directly and indirectly owns a controlling interest in TubeSolar. On September 15, 2021, the Company entered into the JDA with TubeSolar. See “Item 1 Business” for additional detail.
BD1 is an investment holding company. BD1 is 100% owned by BD Vermögensverwaltung GmbH. BD Vermögensverwaltung GmbH is 100% owned by Solar Invest International SE. Johannes Kuhn and Ute Kuhn are the beneficial owners and members of the board of directors of Solar Invest International SE. BD Vermögensverwaltung GmbH and Solar Invest International SE together own approximately 18.9% of TubeSolar’s shares.
Various conflicts of interest between us and our controlling stockholders could arise. The ownership interest and voting power of our controlling stockholders could create or appear to create potential conflicts of interest when such controlling stockholders are faced with decisions relating to us. We may not be able to resolve any potential conflicts, and even if we do, the resolution may be less favorable to us than if we were dealing with an unaffiliated third party.
So long as Crowdex, TubeSolar and BD1 continue to beneficially own a significant amount of our outstanding equity securities, those stockholders may be able to strongly influence or effectively control our decisions.
Risks Relating to our Securities and an Investment in our Common Stock
The price of our common stock may continue to be volatile. Our common stock is currently traded on the Nasdaq Capital Market. The trading price of our common stock from time to time has fluctuated widely and may be subject to similar volatility in the future. For example, the calendar year ended December 31, 2021, our common stock ranged from $10.00 to $485.00, and in 2022, our common stock ranged from $1.50 to $33.00, all prices as adjusted for the reverse stock split. The trading price of our common stock in the future may be affected by a number of factors, including events described in these
Risk Factors. In recent years, broad stock market indices, in general, and smaller capitalization and PV companies, in particular, have experienced substantial price fluctuations. In a volatile market, we may experience wide fluctuations in the market price of our common stock. These fluctuations may have a negative effect on the market price of our common stock regardless of our operating performance. In the past, following periods of volatility in the market price of a company’s securities, securities class action litigation has often been instituted. A securities class action suit against us could result in substantial costs, potential liabilities and the diversion of management’s attention and resources and could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition.
As a public company we are subject to complex legal and accounting requirements that require us to incur substantial expenses, and our financial controls and procedures may not be sufficient to ensure timely and reliable reporting of financial information, which, as a public company, could materially harm our stock price and listing on Nasdaq Capital Market. As a public company, we are subject to numerous legal and accounting requirements that do not apply to private companies. The cost of compliance with many of these requirements is substantial, not only in absolute terms but, more importantly, in relation to the overall scope of the operations of a small company. Failure to comply with these requirements can have numerous adverse consequences including, but not limited to, our inability to file required periodic reports on a timely basis, loss of market confidence, delisting of our securities and/or governmental or private actions against us. We cannot assure you we will be able to comply with all of these requirements or the cost of such compliance will not prove to be a substantial competitive disadvantage vis-à-vis our privately held and larger public competitors.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (“Sarbanes-Oxley”) requires, among other things, that we maintain effective internal control over financial reporting and disclosure controls and procedures. In particular, we must perform system and process evaluation and testing of our internal control over financial reporting to allow management to report on the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting, as required by Section 404 of Sarbanes-Oxley. Our compliance with Section 404 of Sarbanes-Oxley will require we incur substantial accounting expense and expend significant management efforts. The effectiveness of our controls and procedures may, in the future, be limited by a variety of factors, including:
Faulty human judgment and simple errors, omissions or mistakes;
Fraudulent action of an individual or collusion of two or more people;
Inappropriate management override of procedures; and
The possibility that any enhancements to controls and procedures may still not be adequate to assure timely and accurate financial information.
If we are not able to comply with the requirements of Section 404 in a timely manner, or if we or our independent registered public accounting firm, identifies deficiencies in our internal control over financial reporting that are deemed to be material weaknesses, we may be subject to Nasdaq Capital market delisting, investigations by the SEC and civil or criminal sanctions.
Our ability to successfully implement our business plan and comply with Section 404 requires us to be able to prepare timely and accurate financial statements. We expect we will need to continue to improve existing, and implement new operational, financial and accounting systems, procedures and controls to manage our business effectively.
Any delay in the implementation of, or disruption in the transition to, new or enhanced systems, procedures or controls may cause our operations to suffer, and we may be unable to conclude that our internal control over financial reporting is effective as required under Section 404 of Sarbanes-Oxley. If we are unable to complete the required Section 404 assessment as to the adequacy of our internal control over financial reporting, if we fail to maintain or implement adequate controls, our ability to obtain additional financing could be impaired. In addition, investors could lose confidence in the reliability of our internal control over financial reporting and in the accuracy of our periodic reports filed under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (“Exchange Act”). A lack of investor confidence in the reliability and accuracy of our public reporting could cause our stock price to decline.
Our stockholders may experience significant dilution as a result of shares of our common stock issued pursuant to our existing financing agreements and pursuant to new securities that we may issue in the future. We are likely to issue substantial amounts of additional common stock in connection with our existing secured financing agreements entered into on December 19, 2022.These financing agreements contain variable pricing mechanisms. The number of shares that we will issue pursuant to these agreements fluctuate based on the price of our common stock. We may also issue additional common stock
or securities convertible into or exchangeable or exercisable for common stock, in connection with future capital raising transactions.
The issuance of material amounts of common stock by us would cause our existing stockholders to experience significant dilution in their investment in our Company. Also, if we obtain additional financing involving the issuance of equity securities or securities convertible into equity securities, our existing stockholders’ investment would be further diluted. Such dilution could cause the market price of our common stock to decline, which could impair our ability to raise additional financing.
Depending on market liquidity at the time, sales of such newly issued additional shares into the market may cause the trading price of our common stock to fall.
Sales of a significant number of shares of our common stock in the public markets or significant short sales of our stock, or the perception that such sales could occur, could depress the market price of our common stock and impair our ability to raise capital. Sales of a substantial number of shares of our common stock or other equity-related securities in the public markets could depress the market price of our common stock. If there are significant short sales of our stock, the price decline that could result from this activity may cause the share price to decline more so, which, in turn, may cause long holders of the stock to sell their shares, thereby contributing to sales of stock in the market. Such sales also may impair our ability to raise capital through the sale of additional equity securities in the future at a time and price that our management deems acceptable, if at all. In addition, a large number of our outstanding shares are not registered under the Securities Act. If and when these shares are registered or become eligible for sale to the public market, the market price of our common stock could also decline.
We may not be able to maintain our current listing for our common stock on the Nasdaq Capital Market.. Our inability to maintain our current listing on Nasdaq may limit the liquidity of our stock, increase its volatility, and hinder our ability to raise capital. Our common stock was listed on Nasdaq on August 24, 2022. The Nasdaq listing rules require listed securities to maintain a minimum bid price of $1.00 per share. Our common stock has recently been trading on Nasdaq at a price below $1.00 per share. If the closing bid price of our common stock is less than $1.00 for the 30 consecutive trading days, we will no longer meet this requirement.
In this event, we would expect to receive a written notice from the listing qualifications department of Nasdaq indicating that the Company is not in compliance with the $1.00 minimum bid price requirement. Such notice would not be expected to result in the immediate delisting of the Company’s common stock from Nasdaq. We would expect Nasdaq to provide the Company with 180 calendar days in which to regain compliance. If at any time during this 180 calendar day period the bid price of the Company’s common stock closes at or above $1.00 per share for a minimum of ten consecutive trading days, the Nasdaq staff would typically provide the Company with a written confirmation of compliance and the matter would be closed.
Alternatively, if the Company fails to regain compliance with the bid price rule prior to the expiration of the initial 180 calendar day period, the Company may be eligible for an additional 180 calendar day compliance period, provided (i) it meets the continued listing requirement for market value of publicly held shares and all other applicable requirements for initial listing on Nasdaq (except for the bid price requirement) and (ii) it provides written notice to Nasdaq of its intention to cure this deficiency during the second compliance period by effecting a reverse stock split, if necessary. In the event the Company does not regain compliance with the bid price rule prior to the expiration of the initial 180 calendar day period, and if it appears to the Nasdaq staff that the Company will not be able to cure the deficiency, or if the Company is not otherwise eligible, the Nasdaq staff will provide the Company with written notification that its securities are subject to delisting from Nasdaq. At that time, the Company may appeal the delisting determination to a Nasdaq hearings panel.
If our common stock is delisted by Nasdaq, our common stock may be eligible for quotation on an over-the-counter quotation system or on the pink sheets. Upon any such delisting, our common stock would become subject to the regulations of the SEC relating to the market for penny stocks. A penny stock is any equity security not traded on a national securities exchange that has a market price of less than $5.00 per share. The regulations applicable to penny stocks may severely affect the market liquidity for our common stock and could limit the ability of shareholders to sell securities in the secondary market. In such a case, an investor may find it more difficult to dispose of or obtain accurate quotations as to the market value of our common stock, and there can be no assurance that our common stock will be eligible for trading or quotation on any alternative exchanges or markets.
Delisting from Nasdaq could adversely affect our ability to raise additional financing through public or private sales of equity securities, would significantly affect the ability of investors to trade our securities and would negatively affect the value and liquidity of our common stock. Delisting could also have other negative results, including the potential loss of confidence by employees, the loss of institutional investor interest and fewer business development opportunities.
Some provisions of our charter documents and Delaware law may have anti-takeover effects that could discourage an acquisition of us by others, even if an acquisition would be beneficial to our stockholders, and may prevent attempts by our stockholders to replace or remove our current management. Provisions in our Certificate of Incorporation and Bylaws, each as amended, as well as provisions of Delaware law, could make it more difficult for a third party to acquire us,
or for a change in the composition of our Board of Directors (our “Board”) or management to occur, even if doing so would benefit our stockholders. These provisions include:
Authorizing the issuance of “blank check” preferred stock, the terms of which may be established and shares of which may be issued without stockholder approval;
Dividing our Board into three classes;
Limiting the removal of directors by the stockholders; and
Limiting the ability of stockholders to call a special meeting of stockholders.
In addition, we are subject to Section 203 of the Delaware General Corporation Law, which generally prohibits a Delaware corporation from engaging in any of a broad range of business combinations with an interested stockholder for a period of three years following the date on which the stockholder became an interested stockholder, unless such transactions are approved by our Board. This provision could have the effect of delaying or preventing a change of control, whether or not it is desired by, or beneficial to, our stockholders.