Smart Windows Open Up More Funding for SAGE

Updated: SAGE Electrochromics said today that it has raised $20 million in a third round of funding for its smart window tinting technology. The new cash comes from Good Energies, Applied Ventures — the venture capital arm of Applied Materials — and Bekaert.

sage_skylight1That money will come in handy for the company, which has been waiting for approval of a reported $65 million loan from the Department of Energy for more than two years. The DOE loan is set to be used to build a high-speed manufacturing facility. in Faribault, Minn., where SAGE is headquartered. (update: the company hasn’t picked a location yet.)

This fresh infusion of venture capital for SAGE may not cover the cost of a new factory, but some of the cash will be used for production. SAGE said it will use the funding to expand its work in international markets, as well as in new product and business development, manufacturing, and sales and marketing.

SAGE’s windows are made with an all-ceramic stack of thin-film coatings on a glass substrate. A low voltage of DC power can switch the windows from letting in more than 60 percent of visible light, down to less than 5 percent. The DOE has said that electrochromic windows can cut air conditioning costs by up to 20 percent per year in commercial buildings. The company already has a small-scale manufacturing plant in Faribault, and said that since its last round of funding, it’s already sold and installed its smart windows in a number of commercial and residential projects. SAGE raised $16 million in July 2007 from the same group of investors — Good Energies, Applied Ventures and Bekaert.

SAGE isn’t the only company waiting for a DOE loan — a total of 16 firms were picked to submit full applications for the loans back in 2007, including Tesla Motors, which is waiting for $350 million from the DOE to build a factory for its new Model S sedan and for battery development. Last week, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced some changes at his agency to speed up those loans, with the cash potentially showing up by late April or early May. But the agency said that even if the loans are approved, companies could still be required to secure their own share of the financing or meet other conditions before the loans are closed.

Updated with more info: “This is a major expansion on current operations,” John Van Dine, president and CEO of SAGE, told Earth2Tech. He didn’t disclose how big the new factory will be, but said the entire project is expected to cost $120 million. The company has yet to pick a location for the new plant, but Van Dine said it will definitely be built in the U.S. “We just signed up a site selection firm,” he said. “They will be working with us to identify the most appropriate site for this investment.”

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