Morgan Solar Raises Cash for Concentrators

Morgan Solar, a Toronto-based startup developing acrylic solar concentrators, told us today it has raised $8.2 million in its first round of venture-capital funding from Spanish utility Iberdrola, plastics manufacturer Nypro, and Turnstone Capital Management, which led the round. Back in October, when Morgan Solar announced it had closed $4.7 million in the first phase of the round, it said it was aiming for a round of “up to $8.5 million.”

The news could bode well for the sector this year after the Cleantech Group announced earlier today that solar investments fell a whopping 64 percent in 2009 from the previous year, with fourth-quarter deals reaching a new 3-year low. Dallas Kachan, a managing director at the Cleantech Group, said the most chilling factor has been an oversupply of solar panels compared with demand, and added that solar’s capital intensity may have led investors to pull back and wait for better market conditions.

Of course, solar deals are still going through — the group tracked 84 of them last year, compared with 108 in 2008 — but they’re smaller, making those like the Morgan Solar round representative of investment in the sector. In addition, Kachan said he’s seeing more early-stage deals — again, like this Morgan Solar round — in solar than in 2008. “The large spike we saw in 2008 was based on large amounts of venture capital being put to work to build manufacturing plants, and the large pullback in 2009 has illustrated in venture capitalists that that may not be the best place to put money to work,” he said.

Morgan Solar, founded in 2007, has developed a square optic that directs light to a triple-junction solar cell in its center. The optic concentrates the light hitting the solar cell by approximately 1,000 times, delivering two to three times the electricity per panel size, according to Nicolas Morgan, vice president of business development. Altogether, the company claims its panels reach the efficiency of other concentrated solar technologies — 25-30 percent compared with silicon-based panels of up to 19.3 percent — at a cost competitive with thin-film solar panels.

Morgan Solar said in October that it planned to use the first round to build its first assembly in Toronto, install several test projects, and ship its first commercial panels this year. So far, the company appears to be on track. It said today that it already has begun early manufacturing in Toronto for testing and certification, with initial commercial deliveries expected by the end of the year and global sales and manufacturing in 2011.