During the last decade solar power has been produced by expensive, dedicated solar panels, placed on roofs or in fields, and sold as a capital good. During the coming decade solar power will evolve into a consumer product, into something you buy and use as you would a phone or PC. Solarwindow Technologies (NASDAQ:WNDW) and WNDW stock is part of that evolution.
I’m not saying the company will be the big winner. They have all the challenges of a small company. Starting with getting something into the market.
SolarWindow has a market cap of $176 million but no income. Its product is a liquid capable of creating an electric charge when applied to glass or plastic. The charge is harvested by a grid of tiny wires, each thinner than a human hair.
SolarWindow was originally called New Energy Technologies. It was funded by Harmal Rayat, whose Kalen Capital put $29.3 million into it. (He also backs RenovaCare, developing a spray-on system for healing burns.) Jay Bhopal, a property developer who is now chairman of the board, has also poured money into the project.
Today’s company is the culmination of an effort begun by John Conklin, now chief technology officer, back in 1998. SolarWindow has been focused in 2020 on improving its fabrication process, on demonstrations, and on recruiting talent.
The key piece of talent is John Rhee, former CEO of the Nobel Sustainability Trust, who is now on the board. Rhee means the company now has an office in South Korea. His appointment caused the stock price to spike above $5. While it has since given up most of that gain, it’s still up 38% on the year.
If electric windows are the Holy Grail, SolarWindow isn’t the only knight seeking it.
ClearVue Technologies (OTCMKTS:CVUEF), which lists in Australia, sells glass integrated with solar cells. They claim their design generates 30 watts per square meter of glass. Ubiquitous Energy, based in San Francisco, has a similar idea. Solarmer is working along the same lines, using perovskites. Sharp (OTCMKTS:SHCAF) of Japan showed semi-transparent solar panels back in 2012.
That means the race is on to the market. A Seeking Alpha author, looking at the situation in March 2019, didn’t give SolarWindow much of a chance. The company needs to scale production, find partners in the commercial glass sector, convince developers to use it, then wash, rinse and repeat.
The Key is Rhee
The key to SolarWindow’s future seems to be Mr. Rhee. He has quickly built a new executive team around the product.
Alexandra Musk (a half-sister of Elon but it’s complicated) is the new brand officer. James Shin, an expert in semiconductor process control, is now director of engineering. Joseph Song, with degrees from both U.S. and Korean universities, is director of operations. All these appointments were announced at the start of this month, with former CEO Bhopal bumped up to board chairman.
The Bottom Line on WNDW Stock
If you’re speculating on SolarWindow stock, and it is a pure speculation, you’re mainly betting on Mr. Rhee, who was formerly with Softbank (OTCMKTS:SFTBY). It’s his team that must take the company’s coating and process from a dream into a market reality.
That’s the way it usually is with start-ups. A man has a dream, he works on it for years, he slowly finds people who believe in him, and they take it to market.
John Conklin has been working toward this day for two decades, and his baby is finally ready to launch. Whether it takes off or fizzles on the launchpad is unknown. But you can place a bet on that if you wish.
On the date of publication, Dana Blankenhorn did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in any of the securities mentioned in this article.
Dana Blankenhorn has been a financial and technology journalist since 1978. He is the author of the environmental thriller Bridget O’Flynn and the Bear, available at the Amazon Kindle store. Write him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @danablankenhorn.