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Solar cell maker Suniva said on Tuesday morning that it has raised $50 million, in a second round of financing. The Atlanta-based company makes its cells from silicon, but says through its manufacturing process it can make them both thin, which reduces the overall cost, and plan to produce cells that have an over 20 percent efficiency.
Because the material polysilicon is in short supply and high demand, using less silicon is particularly important in bringing down the overall cost of manufacturing. Compared to Suniva, which makes more traditional silicon solar cells, so-called thin film companies like Nanosolar have emerged in recent years to produce solar material without any silicon at a very low cost, but that have less efficiency. Last Friday German thin film solar cell maker Odersun announced it had raised $90 million to build a new factory.
Other solar makers, like Suniva, use polysilicon because silicon solar cells can be more efficient. SunPower, which uses silicon and claims some of the industry’s highest solar cell efficiencies at over 22 percent, has developed a substantial business off its efficient solar cells and panels, though has seen significantly higher costs as the supply of polysilicon has tightened.
Suniva was founded in 2006 by Georgia Tech professor Ajeet Rohatgi, and the technology to produce Suniva’s wafer-thin cells was licensed from Georgia Tech’s University Center of Excellence in Photovoltaics (UCEP). The startup plans to spend the sizable $50 million round on building a new manufacturing plant near Atlanta, which is scheduled to start production by October and would employ up to 200 people over the next two years, notes the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution also quotes Suniva officials that predict the company will bring in $10 million in revenues this year and profitability next year with $100 million in sales. That sounds optimistic. Suniva’s $50 million round was led by New Enterprise Associates, and Advanced Equities, and included Goldman Sachs Group, HIG Ventures, and Quercus Investments.