GreenVolts Looking to Raise Close to $40M


Updated: GreenVolts, a startup which builds solar concentrating photovoltaic systems (CPV) that use both solar cells and lenses mirrors, is raising even more funds. On top of raising $7.5 million in debt in August, GreenVolts is looking to raise $38.8 million in equity funding, according to an SEC filing, and has closed on $22.44 million of the round from existing investors Oak Investment Partners.

The 5-year-old company, which won the California Cleantech Open in 2007, previously announced a contract with northern California utility PG&E to build a 3 MW power plant that was planned to go online first in 2009, and then in 2010. According to blogger Edgar Gunther earlier this month, this (photo to the left) is what’s up at the spot of the Byron, Calif.-based so-called GV1 project. I’m not sure if the project is fully up and running or not (doesn’t look like it), and I’m waiting to hear back more on its status from the company.

Update: GreenVolts PR tells me that the PG&E site is being used for “staging and testing,” and that GreenVolts has “not started full bore installation.” So basically it hasn’t really even started any substantial construction. But GreenVolts also says it expects to complete the 3 MW deployment in 2011.

GreenVolts has moved away from its original carousel tracker CPV design (images of that here) and is using newer CPV tech (check out more photos on Gunther’s site). The tech switch is perhaps one reason the company needs such a sizable round of funding. Another reason is it likely needs funds to help build out its GV1 project more substantially. The company has had other hurdles, including bringing in a new CEO a year ago.

In September 2008, GreenVolts said it had raised $30 million in Series B funds to help it get the first megawatt of its GV1 project online. So at this point, if the almost $40 million is closed in early 2011, GreenVolts will be pretty close to $100 million in funding (or $90 million, given they’ve reportedly raised $50 million already).

The concentrating PV (CPV) solar market has its own problems. It’s a hybrid technology that uses both solar cells and mirrors to concentrate sunlight, so the systems fit into a niche that’s somewhere between massive solar thermal plants in the desert and solar PV on rooftops. CPV promises to significantly reduce the amount of solar cells need for a solar project, which make up a big part of the cost of a solar energy system, but the tech relies on motorized trackers and direct sunlight (can’t make use of diffuse light), which has made it less attractive for developers and regions with many cloudy days. Plus, the price for solar cells that go into solar panels has fallen by at least 50 percent during the past two years, making solar panels a whole lot more appealing for developers and utilities.

GreenVolts was one of the first companies to win a high-profile utility deal in this area, but has since been surpassed by competitors including Amonix and SolFocus. Utility Public Service Co., part of Xcel Energy, has agreed to buy power from a 30 MW project (the largest CPV project in North America) being developed by Cogentrix Energy and using CPV gear from Amonix. Amonix recently raised $129.4 million from the likes of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

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Photos courtesy of Gunther Portfolio.

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