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Published: Wednesday, 3/28/2012

Toledo solar firm evolving to meet market demands

Xunlight to focus on variety of products

Xunlight Corp. of Toledo is working on small panels to charge cell phones and larger ones that can power a Third World village.   Xunlight Corp. of Toledo is working on small panels to charge cell phones and larger ones that can power a Third World village.
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Xunlight Corp.'s chief executive officer is out, a new plan of action is in, and the company is gearing up to launch its flexible solar panels on the commercial market.

The company is transitioning out of the research-and-development stage and is working through a whirlwind of changes that hopefully will make it profitable, said Dennis Kebrdle, Xunlight's chief transition officer.

Mr. Kebrdle, who was brought in by former Chief Executive Officer Xunming Deng to oversee the changes, said he'll be in place until a solid business plan is hammered out. That plan will be created in the next three to four months, he said.

Mr. Deng, a co-founder of the company who resigned earlier this month, is working with other branches of the company in China to expand its capabilities abroad, Mr. Kebrdle said.

Xunlight officials say the company will focus on producing products that range from small panels that could charge a cell phone to large ones that could power a Third World village. The next few months will be spent acquiring contracts and figuring out what the right mix is in order to turn a profit, Mr. Kebrdle said.

"It's no longer chasing million-dollar rooftops," Mr. Kebrdle said of changes in the solar industry.

The company expects to announce a major contract in the coming weeks, and it has not begun searching for Mr. Deng's replacement as chief executive officer.

Xunlight, a privately held company, does not release its financial information. Mr. Kebrdle said the company wouldn't seek state or federal funding for its commercial launch.

The state previously has awarded the company a job creation tax credit of 55 percent for seven years, $291,500 for two work-training grants, and three Ohio Third Frontier grants in the amount of $6,969,848.

Although the company is making changes that executives hope will lead to a bright future, it has not been without its troubles. It laid off 30 employees at its Toledo facility and 70 at its plant in China in May, 2011. It cited payment issues with an Italian company as the cause of the layoffs. It also stopped paying salaries to its top executives earlier that year.

The company had 60 employees in Toledo and 60 in China in September, 2011.

John Buckey, Xunlight's vice president of business development, said the company has about 40 employees and recently laid off about four people.

How Xunlight evolves will depend on market demands, Mr. Buckey said.

Mr. Kebrdle said the company is not in danger of closing and if everything plays out right, it could be a success story at a time when solar companies face uncertain futures.

"We are not making money yet. We don't have a gun in our mouth," he said. "There's a ways to go, but it doesn't feel desperate."

Contact Kris Turner at: kturner@theblade.com or 419-724-6103.

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