A startup making smart windows that can tint and block light, Sage Electrochromics, has been acquired by French glass and construction giant Saint-Gobain. Terms of the deal were not disclosed but Saint-Gobain had already made a sizable $80 million strategic investment for a substantial percentage of Sage at the end of 2010, so the two have been partners for awhile.
Sage at one point was also a recipient of a conditional commitment for a $72 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy (via the 1703 program), but that loan was never closed, Sage confirms with me. I think the loan probably wouldn’t be able to be finalized now, anyways, to a wholly-owned French company.
That loan guarantee was supposed to help Sage build out a $135 million, 250,000 square foot factory in Faribault, Minnesota, which Sage said back then would be “the world’s largest and most advanced electrochromic glass manufacturing facility.” Now the two companies say in a release this morning that the acquisition deal will enable the factory to finally be finished, with production of the smart windows supposed to start in January of 2013. Saint-Gobain says the factory will produce 3.2 million sq. ft. of smart glass annually, and will create 160 jobs.
Sage makes so-called electrochromic windows, which use low voltage to tint the windows and cut the light that can pass through them from more than 60 percent to less than 5 percent. That leads to both less light, but also less heat being drawn into the building. The DOE has noted that electrochromic windows can cut a commercial building’s air conditioning costs by up to 20 percent per year.
Sage’s windows are made using an all-ceramic stack of thin-film coatings over a glass substrate. The company was founded in 1989 and later received funding from venture investors including Good Energies, Applied Ventures (the VC arm of Applied Materials) and Bekaert.
The problem with smart window technology is that it’s always been too expensive — both to buy and to produce. Soladigm is another electrochromic window maker that raised a lot of money to build a factory in Mississippi, and was supposed to start shipping its windows in the first quarter of 2012.