Despite the fact that solar panels are quickly becoming a commodity — cheap and uniform — it looks like investors are still willing to put a small amount of funding into the next-generation of solar equipment. Three startup solar makers have raised funds over the past week or so — two that make concentrating solar technology and one that makes crystalline silicon solar cells.
Last week Solexel, which uses silicon gas to make solar wafers, closed on $25 million in funding, according to a filing. Bloomberg reported on the deal and said that the funds would be used to build a pilot plant in California, which would be a testing ground for a larger commercial plant in Malaysia. Solar panel maker SunPower participated in the round, as did venture investors Kleiner Perkins, Technology Partners and DAG Ventures, reported Bloomberg.
Solexel has been rather quiet about its technology, but says that its manufacturing process is less expensive because less silicon is wasted in the process. At the same the price of silicon dropped dramatically over the past year, so the technology will become more valuable if the price of silicon jumps back up. Other next-gen solar makers that focus on making solar cells with less silicon include Twin Creek Technologies, 1366 Technologies and Astrowatt.
The other two solar makers that raised funds in recent days are focused on concentrating solar technologies, or using mirrors to concentrate and focus the sun’s light. SolFocus, which uses mirrors to amplify and direct sunlight onto photovoltaic solar cells, closed on a $10.75 million round of equity. So-called concentrating solar photovoltaic tech (CPV) has gotten more respect over the past year.
Finally, Honolulu-based startup Sopogy makes concentrating solar thermal systems, which are essentially a condensed version of the massive mirror-and-lense setups that companies like BrightSource develop in the deserts. The company raised a $1 million round, which included debt and options, according to a filing.