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Summary:

Where’s the innovation in solar these days? Here’s three young and stealthy solar startups that have been turning heads this week.

Where’s the innovation in solar these days? The thin film solar companies that raised hundreds of millions of dollars a couple years ago (Nanosolar, Heliovolt, Miasole, Solyndra) are now struggling to reach commercial-scale production, while utility-scale solar thermal companies like BrightSource and eSolar are racing to build some of their first solar plants in the world’s deserts.

But the solar sector is still the second most popular area for greentech venture investment, according to the Cleantech Group, which reports that solar companies received $322 million in 27 deals worldwide for the first quarter of 2010. The largest rounds went to Intel-backed crystalline silicon solar cell maker SpectraWatt, and pole-mounted solar system maker PetraSolar.

However, those are solar firms that have been on the scene for awhile, so what are the next-generation of early-stage solar startups that could help change the game — and the economics — for solar technology? Well, here’s three young and stealthy solar startups that have been turning heads this week:

1). SkyWatch Energy: Not much is known about the technology behind SkyWatch Energy, the solar startup backed by Vinod Khosla’s Khosla Ventures (Khosla will be speaking at our Green:Net 2010 conference on April 29 in San Francisco). But this week, according to an SEC filing (hat tip New Energy Finance) the stealthy company has raised $10.5 million. SkyWatch Energy was in the process of raising $3.2 million in its first round of funding late last year, but seems to have boosted that amount significantly.

SkyWatch employs several experienced solar entrepreneurs, including chief executive Gilad Almogy, who was previously a senior vice president in charge of display and thin-film products at semiconductor manufacturing equipment maker Applied Materials. LinkedIn profiles indicate that SkyWatch’s director of engineering, as well as a senior project manager for the company, also came from Applied Materials. SkyWatch’s director of technology Joe Lichy (LinkedIn profile), has experience with concentrating-solar technologies and previously served as a vice president at now-defunct flat-plate solar-concentrator company SV Solar. He also was formerly the president of another solar-concentrator company, NuEdison, which was bought by SV Solar in 2007.

2). SunReports: Perhaps using IT to monitor solar systems will be a hot area of innovation in 2010. According to the Cleantech Group, solar monitoring startup SunReports came out of stealth this morning with its product called Apollo 1 that can monitor solar hot water heaters and photovoltaics.

There’s already some monitoring technology on the market — Fat Spaniel has been a leader in the solar monitoring space — but SunReports is focusing on the residential market, looking to sell to its device (which is about the size of an Internet modem) to residential solar installers and home owners. SunReports CEO Thomas Dinkel is actually a former Fat Spaniel exec.

3). Twin Creeks: Twin Creeks is another stealthy solar startup that has been shielding its technology, though Greentech Media has an article on the company this week that suggests the company might be coming out of stealth soon. Like Solyndra before it, Twin Creeks has raised a lot of funding — $65 million — to still be in stealth, but as Greentech Media points out the company will have to start talking soon as it’s investing $175 million into a solar panel plant in Senatobia, Miss., that will ultimately employ 512 workers. The company is backed by Crosslink Capital and DAG Ventures.

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  1. Rise & Shine: April 7, 2010 | Sweet Solar Home Wednesday, April 7, 2010

    [...] 3 Stealthy Solar Startups You Should Know About Here’s three young and stealthy solar startups that have been turning heads this week: [...]

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  3. I love to read about the stealthy small companies on the horizon, good article and interesting to see how the players are changing seats. I heard a few months ago that Applied Materials wasn’t funding the solar projects as expected, no surprise to see their people move to smaller companies.

  4. Solar Power – An Alternative Power Source. Sunday, April 11, 2010

    [...] Technology has made astounding inventions in this world that help the world to make impossible situations into a possible state with more and more benefits attached therewith, bringing more and more sophisticated changes in the world and also in the lives of the people. One such astonishing implementation is the solar power transformation and utilization of the solar power into the necessary transformation technique for generating electric energy. Light rays (emitted from the sun, a main part of the solar family) transformed into heat as well as electric energy is used as an alternative power source for the world to satisfy their increased level of needs or requirement for electric energy. The source is the Sunlight that is considered to be the most effective unlimited power resource that can be used to generate the electricity, with the help of the technological designs. The solar system is the natural setup being implemented by nature and Sun is considered to be the alternative power supplier in the form of light energy. This energy is then transformed into the electricity or electric energy through certain processing internally. Solar panels are the special designs being implemented to capture or absorb the sunlight and transform them into electric energy. Apart from solar power, there are wind power, green energy that form an alternative resource of energy to the mankind.3 Stealthy Solar Startups You Should Know [...]

  5. The ever expanding solar power industry goes to show that the green movement is in full motion. That’s why it is a good time to get a Home Energy Audit for your home and help reduce your home impact on the environment and reduce your carbon footprint. if you live in San Diego, CA; you can get a home energy audit from TreeFrog Builders & Inspections. Its time to change the way we live, and we should all start at home.

  6. I realize that this is not a comprehensive market watch, but in the solar industry you need to keep your eyes on Enphase. They are turning the industry on its head- though many refuse to see what is coming down the barrel.

    For instance they have opened the door to AC electricians and bold DIY homeowners to actually do residential grid tied PV systems. (see: http://SimpleEnergyWorks.com)

    Keep up the good work!

  7. SkyWatch Solar Rebrands as Cogenra Solar, Plans to Launch in July Monday, May 24, 2010

    [...] Back in April we reported that the startup (called SkyWatch Energy at the time) had raised $10.5 million, according to an SEC filing. Almogy said at the event on Monday that that round of funding was enough for the company to significantly scale. [...]

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