The intro to this ad came in an email promo from Christian DeHaemer, who writes other newsletters for Angel publishing… here’s the key part, about his communication from Jeff Siegel:
“But back to Jeff… We were on a Zoom call yesterday and he was telling me about this solar company that is using a spray coating to generate electricity from glass windows.
“If you think about it, skyscrapers are nothing more than giant solar collection devices. And this $4 company Jeff was telling me about has a technology called “liquid electricity” that can be applied to rigid glass or plastic in ultra-thin layers. Boom, instant skyscraper photovoltaic device.
“The company just hired an executive from SoftBank and is getting ready for its Asian build-out. With Biden in the White House and the green-energy gravy train just getting started, this company won’t be $4 for long. Click here now — this is one opportunity you don’t want to miss.”
And that whole “spray-on solar” idea really got Gumshoe readers ginned up, the questions poured in right away about this ad for Green Chip Stocks ($99/yr)… so let’s take a look.
This is from the order form that pitches the “Solar Window in Every Home” special report:
“Its invisible, see-through coating can go on ANY window — on ANY building — to capture sunlight and convert it into electric power.
“It can turn every skyscraper, house, hospital, and school into its own “power plant” — capable of generating endless clean electricity, 24 hours a day, seven days a week!
“This is a solar breakthrough that literally just crushed every barrier the industry faces to become a true energy leader… and potentially put electric companies out of business.
“It can be applied to any home or office building — on site — to start generating clean electric power immediately…Are you getting our free Daily Update
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“WITHOUT any expensive construction.
“And WITHOUT changing the existing structure or aesthetics of the building. It integrates seamlessly….
“This is a chance to lock in a ground-floor opportunity on a revolutionary technology — a tiny $184 million company with the potential to become a household name.”
And the promising is hot and heavy, as usual…
“This Tiny Company’s Breakthrough Is About to BANKRUPT Every Single Utility Company in America… and Make You RICH….
“There’s literally nothing on Earth that compares with this firm’s breakthrough invention — which it has protected with over 90 patents.
“I think it will go down as the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT contribution to mankind ever.”
But then he goes into some detail about how he discovered this stock and this “secret” technology… and the bells started ringing. Here’s what he wrote:
“For several months I tried contacting the office of a very elite tech company. It has a sophisticated team of highly skilled engineers.
“In fact, one of them used to develop technology for the U.S. Navy that made its battleships ‘invisible’ to satellite detection.
“These guys are incredibly secretive.
“But I kept hearing rumors about how this outfit somehow unlocked one of the largest sources of energy anywhere on Earth.
“Not in a lab at MIT… not on a deepwater rig… not buried beneath the sand of an OPEC nation… but in a tiny office building in a sleepy little town in upstate New York.”
But then he heard about a secret “demo” project…
“And I got word that one of the company’s researchers would be holding an exclusive demonstration of its secret technology inside a physics lab at a Florida university later that day.
“That was all I needed to hear. I didn’t care about credentials, how I would get into the building, or that I would stand out like a sore thumb, surrounded by physicists and faculty…
“I booked the first flight out of BWI, scribbled down the address, printed a map of the campus, and grabbed my camera.”
And he weaves a great tale of being amazed at the model house in that lab, and how the sunlight coming in through the curtains immediately generated power and turned on the lights in the house, without visible solar panels… and then, even more exciting, the drapes were closed and the house continued to generate power by using the energy from the lights in the lab.
“If that didn’t have the image of enormous profits flooding every mind in the room, the CEO took it one step further…
“The blinds shut, cutting off all traces of sunlight, and the lights in the lab turned on.
“Somehow, the rays from the regular incandescent bulbs were still enough to power the lights in the house.
“As the CEO explained, these cells are 1,000% more powerful when it comes to extracting energy from artificial light sources — enough to keep power running, say, from nothing but the glow of streetlights at night…
“All from a material that could be sprayed on ANY window on ANY building — even at room temperature!”
And, of course, it’s urgent…
“I must warn you: If you’re looking to score a profit of that magnitude, you don’t have much time to wait around…
“You see, this company is already working on some pretty major contracts that could blow the lid off this thing in a matter of days. I’m talking about giants capable of sending this tiny $184 million company’s share price skyrocketing with a single order!
“So it’s no surprise that over the past few weeks, the buzz surrounding this company has started to send its share price north.
“And by as early as next week, we could see every trend-chaser on Wall Street accumulating shares of this little solar gold mine.”
And yes, in case you’re wondering, this is, despite this newfound urgency from Jeff Siegel, mostly a resurrection of an old teaser pitch for SolarWindow (WNDW).
So… for some context here, that “top secret” demonstration that Jeff Siegel talks about was ten years ago, at the University of South Florida in Tampa, and he’s using essentially the same language to describe it, almost word for word, as he did when I first covered a very similar teaser from Siegel for what was then called his Power Portfolio newsletter, about a month after that demonstration on October 25, 2010.
And here’s what the company’s stock performance has looked like since then — over the years it’s been teased a few more times, mostly by Siegel and, later, by Kent Moors for his Energy Advantage newsletter, and it has had its ups and downs and changed its name along the way (from New Energy Technologies to SolarWindow Technologies), but has struggled to make any commercial headway. This is the chart, starting when my article appeared a decade ago:
For context, by the way, I’ve added First Solar (FSLR) and the Nasdaq 100 (QQQ) to the chart — First Solar was riding a bit of a hype cycle in 2010, so the returns there have been quite weak as well:
To be fair, Siegel did predict back then that the stock would go from 62 cents to $4.21 in “a few years”, and if you give him a decade that’s now almost accurate — though half of that price increase came from the fact that they did a 3:1 share consolidation along the way (so 62 cents was really $1.83). The chart doesn’t reflect quite that much of a jump, because the stock had already leapt higher by the time I covered the tease (and doubled in a few weeks during that time, before coming back down sharply).
Part of the challenge here is that we’ve seen this product developed over the past 15 years or so in the hands of a microcap company (it had a market cap of $50 million or so back in 2010, and they’ve sold a LOT of stock along the way but the market cap is sitll only $230 million after getting a “Biden wins” solar bump), and the only way they can push it forward is by raising money and trying to get commercialization deals with companies who can contribute capital or license their still-not-ready-for-production technologies.
They did make an ex-Softbank hire this year, bringing on John Rhee, who was at Softbank a decade ago, to join the Board of Directors and help to open up an arm of the business in South Korea to spur some business, they hope, in Asia.
And the engineering has come some way over the past decade, despite very low R&D spending (they ramped that up last year a bit, so it has been in the $2 million/year range since 2018 or so now, but that still strikes me as TINY for a company trying to develop something new for a mass market — and they only really have a couple employees, thus the need for partners)… but it’s hard for me to conclude that it’s anywhere near ready for prime time.
They just released a video in August of their “largest SolarWindow ever”, at nine square feet… but it still looks like that’s also really just nine panes of one foot by one foot transparent solar panels, presumably with wiring in what for a normal window might be ornamental grilles. That’s quite similar to the sample window we saw many years ago — it might be that the window is a little more transparent than the one they showed in 2016, and each pane is a little bigger, which could be important, but structurally it looks like they have just moved from six panels to nine panels. From what I can tell, we’re nowhere near the point, even if we ignore cost, where large structural glass panels (like for a skyscraper) would be replaced with these near-transparent solar panels.
And yes, making these panels is technically a process that involves a thin film spray/liquid, but despite the implication Siegel tries to make in his pitch this is NOT something you spray on an existing window to “make it solar” — it’s just a process in the fabrication of the window pane. Yes, you could theoretically replace existing windows with “Solar windows” if this technology becomes commercially viable one day, but that day is not particularly close, and it won’t be something you do to existing windows.
I am not saying this to downplay the appeal of the idea… just the near-term hope for the investment. I would love to see every skyscraper generating a trickle of electricity from every window, it would create a lot more jobs and, in combination with improved battery storage, would cut down on the need for coal and gas power plants.
To this a couple months ago…
To this in their marketing campaigns…
It could happen eventually, and I hope it does. Just not seeing it in the immediate future.
To share a little of my perspective and past skepticism, this is a little excerpt of what I said ten years ago when I first looked at this stock:
“… maybe Siegel’s right, maybe these guys will be to First Solar what IBM was to Smith Corona … I’m just not holding my breath….
“That’s not to say that you can’t make money from early stage technology companies, of course, just that you’re not going to be making money because they’re making money — this company, like many, is still proving its technology and trying to develop a commercial product, the stock may well move based on the recommendations of fairly high-volume newsletter folks like Jeff Siegel, but those moves aren’t going to be predictable (unless you happen to know what Siegel will say, and when he’ll say it … and even then, no guarantees). Like most stocks where the teaser writer promises lottery-like returns, it’s worth remembering that yes, most lottery tickets get torn up and thrown in the street in front of the 7-11.
“I don’t know what will happen with this company, and to a layperson the technology for both their products looks really cool … but that’s not enough reason for your friendly neighborhood Gumshoe to plunk down the college fund on this gamble. If I look more deeply into the company and change my mind, I’ll let you know.”
And here’s what I wrote in 2015, when Kent Moors was pitching the idea and betting on the fact that they were promising “commercialization by January 2018” (they were looking to raise money at the time):
“SolarWindow remains a very cool story, even though it appears to me, after viewing the presentation, that the actual demonstration windows so far are quite small and pretty deeply tinted and in need of the next iterative advancements in the science. But with at least two years until commercialization and no partners that I can see who are providing up front capital to fund them to that level (and signing license agreements), and only a very theoretical grasp of the potential economics of the product, it’s very, very speculative… and, as a story stock, there’s absolutely no relationship between the stock price and the actual operating business — it’s still a venture capital investment, it might hit or it might miss, and we won’t know for many years whether it hits or how much the technology is actually worth.”
I haven’t changed my mind yet, for what it’s worth, and I’m not terribly tempted to invest here. They’ve still reported no revenue over the 13 years since they reported their “windows generate electricity” breakthrough and began to refocus the company (called Octillion at the time) away from the “motion capture” power generation idea and toward “solar windows” … and those who’ve been paying attention, like Jeff Siegel, presumably, have been able to enjoy a long string of overpromising from the company along the way as their predicted path to commercialization has always extended out into the future.
This is how the company positioned itself at the beginning of 2020, in their CEO letter, so they’re not being as specific in their “commercialization promises” as they were a few years ago — which is probably good for the lawyers, and maybe bad for short-term speculators:
“Our goals are clear: to bring SolarWindow transparent electricity-generating glass products to market.
“With more than $16 million in cash and no debt (FYE 2019), we enter 2020 with ample financial and personnel resources in place to pursue our near-term goals.
“Currently, one of our priorities is to secure a joint venture manufacturing, production and marketing partnership.
“In anticipation of a possible joint venture agreement, we have ordered high-volume specialty-coatings equipment for our SolarWindow™ glass process, and are working towards creating the unique fabrication processes required to manufacture our electricity-generating glass products.”
That’s down to about $14 million now, they’ve used roughly $2.5 million in the past year. And though they don’t issue press releases for their quarterly or annual reports, they do still have to file them — so you can see their latest 10-K annual report here on the SEC’s site. The good news? They say they have enough cash to get through the next twelve months and meet their product and fabrication goals.
And the primary warning/risk factor? Other than the fact that they have a control investor who could shake things up on a whim if he wanted (Harmel Rayat, who through Kalen Capital controls about 75% of the company, after providing the $20 million in new cash that kept them afloat in 2018), it’s probably similar to the risk we would have thought critical a decade ago:
“We are currently in the advanced stages of our research and early stages of product development. We have come to the point where larger, faster, and more precise equipment is necessary for all facets of technology and product development to continue and to be able to come to market with a commercially viable product. We, however, cannot accurately predict the amount of funding or the time required to successfully commercialize the SolarWindow™ technology. The actual cost and time required to commercialize these technologies may vary significantly depending on, among other things, the results of our research and product development efforts; the cost of developing, acquiring, or licensing various enabling technologies, changes in the focus and direction of our research and product development programs; competitive and technological advances; the cost of filing, prosecuting, defending and enforcing claims with respect to patents; the regulatory approval process; process manufacturing; marketing and other costs associated with commercialization of these technologies. Because of this uncertainty, even if financing is available to us, we may secure insufficient funding to effectuate our business plan….
“Commercialization of the SolarWindow™ technology will require significant further research, development and testing as we must ascertain whether the SolarWindow™ technology can form the basis for a commercially viable technology or product. If our research and development fails to prove the commercial viability of the SolarWindow™ technology, we may need to abandon our business model and/or cease doing business, in which case our shares may have no value and you may lose your investment. We anticipate remaining engaged in technology and initial product development for (a) specific product(s) through at least December 2021.”
And I hadn’t realized this, but the company also got a listing “downgrade” a couple years ago — they were kicked off the OTCQB and went back to being a “regular” OTC company trading on the pink sheets. This note in the 10-K gives a possible reason:
“OTC Markets may remove the Company’s securities from trading on the OTCQB market immediately and at any time, without notice, if OTC Markets, in its sole and absolute discretion, believes that the continued inclusion of the Company’s securities would impair the reputation or the integrity of OTC Markets or be detrimental to the interests of investors. Such concerns may include but are not limited to promotion, spam or disruptive corporate actions even when adequate current information is available.”
Overpromising is not necessarily the kiss of death, particularly in this segment of the market — Elon Musk spent years
lying overpromising, and was able to use that marketing skill and his new-energy evangelism to raise incredible amounts of money, eventually build beloved products for at least a niche audience (so far), and build Tesla into a giant (entering the S&P 500 soon, and now one of the ten largest US-traded companies). This doesn’t strike me as a Tesla-type company on the marketing or leadership front, and they don’t have a marketing figure like Elon Musk at the helm… but to some degree they’ve been at least trying to push the PR buttons for the past dozen years and have been making big promises about the long-term potential and have raised some money, so maybe they’re attempting to do their part in the “junior Musk mode” — I imagine it’s mostly the persistent failure to advance to a commercial product, exacerbated by the penny stock status and huge control shareholder, that’s holding them back from getting some broader appeal with mainstream investors. Hope springs eternal, but going from a demonstration-model six-pane window to a demonstration-model nine-pane window in four years does not inspire a huge amount of enthusiasm about what the next four years might bring.
If you want some other perspective, there was an interesting piece from IEEE called “The Dawn of Solar Windows” in January of 2018 that mentions a few of the pending “transparent solar” projects that were in the lab at that time, including SolarWindow’s as well as some competing projects, and highlights some of the promise and the technological challenges those projects face.
To be fair, I was very skeptical of Tesla seven or eight years ago (and more recently), too, and Tesla even had a product that was actually for sale a decade ago… so maybe I’m just too skeptical or cynical for these kinds of investments. Thankfully, you get to decide what to do with your money — so what’ll it be? Ready to jump on board the “solar window” train? Think it’s the breakthrough the world needs, and that they’re actually making enough progress to turn it into a product someday? Share my skepticism? I’d love to hear either way, just use the happy little comment box below to share your thoughts…