Solar Startup Konarka Raises $45M

Another week, another round of funding raised by a company developing solar materials and struggling to get those products to market. Six-year-old Lowell, Mass.-based Konarka said this morning it has raised $45 million. The company had been rumored to be raising close to that size of a round this summer, and this latest round brings Konarka’s total to a whopping $105 million.

Like other companies working on thin film and flexible solar technologies, Konarka is raising funds to get its product into commercialization. Recently Miasolé raised $50 million, Heliovolt added $77 million, and Nanosolar found more funding with the DOE. Unlike many of these startups that make thin film solar out of copper, indium, gallium and selenium (CIGS), Konarka’s technology is made out of polymers to create its so-called “Power Plastic.”

We talked with Konarka co-founder and executive chairman of the board, Howard Berke, at Solar Power 2007 recently and he said the company’s first products won’t likely hit the market until the second half of 2008. Berke stepped down as CEO this summer.

Berke says the technology can be manufactured at a lower cost — their target cost is $1 per watt — is more environmentally friendly, and can be printed on a variety of lighter-weight materials compared to the company’s competitors. At the same time, Konarka’s efficiency rate runs between three and five percent, which is less than many standard solar efficiencies.

The round was led by Mackenzie Financial Corporation and Good Energies, with participation by Pegasus Capital, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Asenqua Ventures, New Enterprise Associates (NEA), 3i, Vanguard Ventures, Chevron (CVX), Massachusetts Green Energy Fund, NGEN Partners, Angeleno Group and Asenqua Ventures.