Solar Startup Funding: SoloPower Raises $51M


Looks like investors aren’t done pumping money into solar gear startups, despite some missteps in 2010. According to a filing, thin-film solar panel maker SoloPower has raised $51.58 million in equity and security from investors including Crosslink Capital, Hudson Clean Energy Partners, and Norwegian firm Convexa.

At the same time, Hawaiian solar concentrating startup Sopogy is also looking to raise $30 million, according to a filing also revealed Wednesday morning, and has closed on $4.5 million of that round. Yesterday, the CEO of solar panel startup Stion told us the company plans to raise between $100 million and $150 million in an IPO sometime in 2012.

Solar gear companies still seem able to raise funds, despite many predictions that 2011 will be the year solar investors will turn to low-capital investments like software and services.

San Jose, Calif.-based SoloPower has developed a flexible solar panel, which received UL certification in September: a certification required for installation in many U.S. regions. Its panels are made of copper-indium-gallium-selenide cells, which represent the next generation of thin-film solar technology.

The majority of the solar panels on the market use crystalline silicon solar cells, which are fragile and rely on glass to protect them. Thin-film solar panels, on the other hand, contain ultra-thin layers of alternative versions of silicon or other semiconductors and don’t necessarily need glass. However, the world’s largest thin-film maker, First Solar, sandwiches its cadmium-telluride solar cells in between glass.

Producing these cutting-edge solar panels at scale will require hundreds of millions of dollars. SoloPower raised nearly $45 million in debt financing about a year ago, according to a regulatory filing. Close to half was paid to co-founders Bulent Basol and Homayoun Talieh, in what appeared to be the last chapter of a lawsuit settled between Talieh and SoloPower.

Back in 2008, Venture Wire reported that SoloPower had raised a grand ol’ $200 million to scale manufacturing up to a 100-megawatt-per-year plant (via VentureBeat), though Solopower never confirmed that round size with me.

In late 2009, SoloPower said it was looking for a $190 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy to build a high-volume manufacturing plant, and would raise more funds to meet the equity-share requirements of loan guarantee. To date, that loan guarantee hasn’t come through.

SoloPower is also now reportedly seeking a $20 million loan through Oregon’s State Energy Loan Program for a 75-megawatt capacity plant in Wilsonville, Ore.

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