Ascent Solar Offers Portable Solar to Consumers
Solar stocks showed some serious returns for investors in 2013 with the Guggenheim Solar ETF (NYSEARCA:TAN) and the Market Vectors Solar ETF (NYSEARCA:KWT) returning +122% and +98% respectively over the year. While both these solar ETFs have retracted in 2014, they are still up over +10% year-to-date and solar as a theme continues to show strong momentum going forward. One micro-cap solar company that is looking to target portable solar charging applications for consumers is Ascent Solar.
Ascent Solar (NASDAQ:ASTI) was first incorporated on October 18, 2005, as a spinoff of ITN Energy Systems, Inc with the intent to commercialize copper indium gallium (di)selenide (CIGS) photovoltaic technology on a flexible, plastic substrate. On July 18, 2006, Ascent completed an IPO, selling 3,000,000 shares at 5.50 USD per share. A retail investor who would have bought Ascent Solar shares on the day of the IPO would have paper losses of over -88% as of today. As of March 31, 2014, the Company had $1.6 million in cash on hand having burned through $6.5 million in cash for operations during the same quarter to reach an accumulated deficit of $259.5 million. Ascent incurred a loss of around $30 million during 2013 on revenues of $1.3 million. On a positive note, total revenues for the first quarter of 2014 were $753 thousand which represented a 220% increase over the same quarter in the year prior.
The EnerPlex Product Line
Ascent develops and manufactures flexible thin-film solar modules using copper indium gallium (di)selenide (CIGS), which have shown a 19.5% NREL efficiency in real-world conditions. In 2012, Ascent announced a new strategic focus to their business model by introducing consumer-oriented products sold under the EnerPlex™ brand. Some interesting portable solar charging products are now commercially available to consumers. The EnerPlex iPhone Solar Charger uses flexible solar panels to provide supplementary charging with sunlight for the iPhone 4 and 4S through a phone case that weighs just 2.5 ounces and claims to provide 66% more battery life. This solar iPhone charger is available on Amazon presently for $72.62. The EnerPlex Kickr IV Portable Solar Charger is a portable solar charger that folds up into a compact package that weighs just .64 pounds and can fully charge a Samsung Galaxy S3 in 2.1 hours:
This portable solar charger is available on Amazon for $119.55. During 2013, the EnerPlex™ brand rapidly expanded adding two additional product series as well as over fifteen new products. Ascent’s EnerPlex products are carried in all 34 Fry’s Electronics stores across 9 states in the U.S.
While Ascent’s products are innovative and show promise, the reviews on Amazon are mixed. The optimal target market seems to be outdoorsy types who wish to charge their devices while camping. If the Enerplex products are truly economically viable for a more broader set of consumers to purchase, then we would expect to see this reflected in strong revenue growth. In the meantime, Ascent Solar (NASDAQ:ASTI) will need to raise more funds given their cash on hand and burn rate. Investors may want to keep an eye on ASTI’s revenue growth as a proxy for consumer adoption of their EnerPlex product lines.
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