For the solar industry, these are not the sunniest of times. And startups in general are vulnerable to the ongoing financial storms that have tied up credit and made venture capitalists wary of long-term, high-risk investments like solar farms. But two young solar ventures — one having just emerged from stealth mode last week and the other having splashed into the spotlight with a fat funding round last year — are slogging ahead with plans for commercialization.
Today concentrating solar startup Skyline Solar is holding an event to show off a grid-connected pilot installation at a Vally Transit Authority facility in San Jose, Calif., (near Zanker Road and Route 237, where Tesla Motors once planned to build a factory for its Model S electric sedan). As we wrote last week, the project is 24-30 KW and represents the largest demonstration of Skyline’s technology to date. In other words, it’s far from taking California by storm with utility-scale solar energy at competitive rates with fossil fuels — the startup’s stated goal. But it is feeding energy into the power grid, and it has caught the attention of California Energy Commissioner Jeffrey Byron, who will attend the event this afternoon. Skyline says it has other partnerships in the works for larger installations that it aims to deploy later this year.
Thin-film solar panel maker Abound Solar (formerly AVA Solar) is further along than Skyline, having fired up its first full-scale factory in April after more than a decade of development at Colorado State University. But while Abound — which this week announced new long-term sales agreements with two German solar integrators — has long eyed a price war with giant First Solar, the startup remains a little fish in the big solar pond. Right now, with larger players under pressure as a result of oversupply and increasingly difficult margins, being small, nimble and well-funded may not be such a bad thing.