Stealth Thin Film Solar Startup Solexant Gearing Up

Solar startup Solexant, which is sometimes stealthy, and sometimes not-so-stealthy, is gearing up to start talking a whole lot more. That’s because, according to a filing with financial regulators, the company is in the process of raising a lot more money, including a planned $65 million, and has already closed around $12.5 million of that. A spokesperson for Solexant, which was spun out of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, says the total amount raised in this round is closer to $41.5 million.

Based in San Jose, Calif., 4-year-old Solexant fashions itself as a “third generation” solar photovoltaic maker, and is working on producing in a roll-to-roll manufacturing process what it says are “ultra-thin,” inorganic “nanocrystal solar cells,” at a cost that can get down to 50 cents per watt. In comparison thin film solar competitors MiaSole and First Solar say they can produce solar panels for 85 cents per watt.

According to the Cleantech Group, Solexant finished building in October a 2 MW pilot line that is creating nanocrystal cells, and as of last year the company was planning to use any funding raised to build a 100 MW commercial scale solar panel assembly line. It’s probably safe to assume this funding round will help the company move into commercial production.

According to The Oregonian, Solexant wants to build its 100 MW plant near Portland and Solexant is seeking a $25 million loan from the Oregon government to finance a solar-cell plant. It’s not surprising that Solexant would want to move manufacturing out of its home state, as the cost of production is often high in California and MiaSole is planning to move production out of California, too. (See our interview with the “cleantech candidate” for California Assembly.)

Overall, compared to thin film solar companies like Nanosolar, MiaSole and HelioVolt, which have raised hundreds of millions of dollars, Solexant has been keeping its fund-raising in the moderate range. The company said to me via email that “With minimal capital and little time, Solexant was able to accomplish what other solar start-ups have been unable to do with ten times as much money.” Solexant is backed by Trident Capital, Firelake Capital, Medley Partners, X/Seed Capital, DBL Investors and Olympus Capital Partners.

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