CPV is a zero billion dollar market that looks great on paper, especially when the price of silicon is high. Scores of firms are trying to stake out their corner of the CPV sector in anticipation of tremendous market growth and technical advances.
We've compiled a list of these firms with funding info and a few words on each startup's technology.
They include Low Concentration PV firms, High Concentration PV firms and firms attempting to dethrone the oligarchy that controls Triple-Juction Cells.
Ahura Energy: Pre-VC solar concentrator systems for thermal and solar applications. Seeking $4.5 million.
Banyan Energy: Banyan is a startup seeking funding and developing a set of optics to concentrate sunlight within a PV module. The company claims their optics platform can achieve concentration levels ranging from 2x up to 500x. Banyan’s first product is a low-concentration module.
Concentrator Optics: German-based Concentrator Optics designs and produces Fresnel lenses for the CPV market with funding from Belgium-based VC Capricorn Venture Partners. The market for solar Fresnel lenses is estimated to reach $280 million in 2011, according to the Capricorn press release (Take that figure with a grain of salt).
Concentrix: A Fraunhofer Institute spin-off with investment from Good Energies, Concentrix has installed about 100 kW of HCPV systems and is now building a 25-MW production line.
Cool Earth Solar: Mylar balloon-based concentrator system received $21 million in funding in early 2008 from an unnamed PE investor. At a recent conference, CEO Rob Lamkin said that they were currently using triple junction cells but silicon would eventually be used
Covalent Solar: Covalent is an early stage, pre-VC firm spawned from MIT targeting a dye-based luminescent solar concentrator without tracking or cooling. The system looks to use both triple junction and silicon cells and could have eventual BIPV applications.
Distributed Solar Power: Israel-based firm developing a CPV/CHP system that produces electricity and heat using sun-tracking miniature PV concentrators. The system has a claimed ~75 percent efficiency and is intended for on-grid customers. It can produce high quality heat for steam generation, cooling and AC (using absorption cooling), space and water heating, and process heat. The firm is working with Italy’s Shap and has raised $1.2 million from Israel’s Aurum Ventures et al.
Energy Innovations: EI’s low-profile “Sunflower" is a 2 axis tracking HCPV system incorporating Fresnel lenses. EI’s VC investors include MDV and Idealab.
EnFocus Engineering: Lens-based, low-profile III/V system for rooftop applications. EnFocus recently received a $3 million Solar America Initiative award from the DOE.
Everphoton:Taiwan-based HCPV with TJ cells.
Extreme Energetics: With “clear transistor" technology licensed from HP, Extreme Energetics is developing CPV systems and looking for funding.
Greenfield Solar: Greenfield Solar raised ~$1.5 million in early 2008 with a plan to license and franchise a CPV system design. The company's high-efficiency PV chip is a custom edge illuminated chip design from PhotoVolt.
GreenVolts: $30 million in VC funding from Oak Investment Partners in September 2008. Greenvolts has a 2-MW PG&E contract for their low-profile CPV system to be deployed near Tracy, Calif. The-2MW system is hailed as one of the largest CPV systems undertaken.
Microlink Devices: Received $3.2 million from the DOE SAI PV Module Incubator program for multijunction solar cells. Microlink claim that its MOCVD technology and unique processing steps minimizes the amount of GaAs used in the solar cells.
MegaWattSolar: With investment from Scatec and iEnergies, MegaWattSolar builds dual axis CPV “solar trees” using silicon modules and 10 to 50X concentration.
Morgan Solar: Angel-funded Morgan Solar uses “Light Guide Solar Optics" (LGSO) to direct sunlight to the edges of an optical element in their CPV system.
MST: Founded by Dov Raviv, MST will build CPV solar farms in combination with Vanadium flow battery storage. Their website claims the major cost reduction element will be achieved by constructing automatic production and assembly lines.
Netcrystal: NetCrystal is using a technology developed by Peumans’ group at Stanford, funded by Wellington Partners, Siemens, and X-Seed. Netcrystal’s SBIR Phase I project is focused on the development of high-efficiency, lightweight, non-tracking, microconcentrator PV arrays based on stretched silicon. According to the SBIR document: “The stretchable silicon process can achieve accurate placement and electrical wiring of thousands of miniature solar cells in one parallel and potentially low-cost step."
Optony: Pre-VC thin-film CPV.
Prism Solar: Prism Solar uses transparent holographic optical elements in its passive concentrator design. Has received more than $2 million in funding from CounterPoint Ventures, Phoenix-Fire, et al.
Pyron Solar: Triple Junction based 2-axis HCPV with arrays floating in water. Pyron received $2 million in first-round funding from New Energies Invest in 2007. Pyron received another $1 million in a second closing of its Round A from NEI in mid 2008. The funding will finance a pilot demonstration of Pyron’s technology with a Southern California utility, according to Doug Carriger, the company’s CEO.
Pythagoras Solar: Israel’s Pythagoras builds “Medium" concentration solar cells using silicon. Funded by a $10 milion Series A from Precede Technologies, Israel Cleantech Venutres, Evergreen Venture Partners, and Pitango Venture Capital.
QuantaSol: “Strain-Balanced Quantum Well" triple-junction PV cells from this U.K.-based, VC-funded startup with technology developed at Imperial College London. QuantaSol claims that the spectral response of an SB-QWPV cell can be tuned to maximize conversion efficiency under a “wide range of radiation spectra by varying composition and thickness of the III-V semiconductor nano-layers in the active region of the solar cell."
QuNano: Sweden’s QuNano raised a 6.1 million Round A in 2006 from Provider Venture Partners, Teknoinvest, BTG, LU Innovation, et al. Their heterostructured nanowire technology has applications in PV. This PV technology was spun-out in 2008 as a new firm, Sol Voltaics, with additional investment from Scatec targeting CPV applications for their advanced nanostructured III-V materials.
Scaled Solar: SF-based and privately-held, Scaled Solar’s press release claims that the firm has entered into two supply agreements for its HCPV systems in July 2008. The end applications for the systems are powering solar farms totaling 75 MW in the SF Bay Area and California’s Central Valley starting in 2009.
Skyline Solar: Stealth-mode LCPV vendor using silicon. Helmed by Bob MacDonald (formerly of SolFocus) Skyline has closed a roughly $25 million round from New Enterprise Associates, et al. and is targeting large installations (as opposed to residential applications). The company claims its product “combines the best of thin film (low area cost) and silicon PV (high reliability and efficiency)." Skyline’s CEO provided the following tidbits: The firm is commercializing a “high-utilization" silicon PV system (more Watts per wafer) and its technology is based on linear concentration with a strong kinship to CST.
Solaria: With considerable funding from Q-Cells, Sigma Partners, NGEN and Moser Baer, Solaria is building a low concentration system in the traditional flat-panel footprint. Solaria’s technology is based on dicing or “singulating" a standard silicon wafer and mounting these strips on a substrate with a lensing system that essentially halves the requirement for silicon. Its 25-MW line in the Philippines will be ready for production by the end of this year and follows a fabless model by using a third party operator.
SolBeam: With seed funding from NGEN, SolBeam is building flat panel concentrators. Here’s a SolBeam patent.
SolFocus: One of the first VC-funded CPV startups with technology licensed from PARC, it acquired a glass manufacturer and a tracker company to control their supply chain and are in the process of raising another funding round. It has completed the first 200-kW phase of a 3-MW system in Spain operated by ISFOC. At one point Spectrolab was their designed-in supplier of solar cells but that might have changed as SolFocus attempts to liberate itself from the III/V solar cell oligopoly. The company's most recent round in 2007 was ~$63 million from NEA, Moser Baer, et al.
Solar Junction: III-V materials startup Solar Junction CEO Jim Weldon and VP Craig Stauffer confirmed that their VC funding from ATV, DFJ, and NEA was “north of $3 million," the company’s goal is to create very high-efficiency, triple-junction cells for CPV systems, and that the “secret is in the EPI."
Solar Systems: Privately held Australian firm with a $100M investment from Australian utilities currently using a dish-based CPV system but moving towards power tower (?). Solar Systems placed a large (350 MW 10 year) order with Spectrolab for III/V cells.
Soliant: VC-funded by Rockport, Nth Power, Trinity, Rincon, GE, Convexa, this firm started life as a low-concentration company, now targeting standard panel footprint 500X HCPV for rooftop applications. Their first round in 2006 was $8 million, it received $4 million from the DOE SAI in 2007, and $21 million in Q3 2008.
Stellaris: Funded by King Hill Capital, Convexa Capital and iEnergies with a $6 million Round A in 2007, Stellaris builds non-tracking LCPV with technology stemming from the Northeast Solar Energy Center. Here’s a link to Stellaris’ solar patent.
Sunovia: Working with EPIR, in which it has a significant equity position, Sunovia is attempting to develop CdTe on Si, for a multijunction solar cell with initial applications in CPV. Sunovia received $12M in funding from an undisclosed source in 2008.
Sun Phocus: Early stage holographic planar concentrator technology for BIPV applications.
SV Solar: VC-funded startup with a $10 million round A led by Bessemer Venture Partners and presumably sourced by Justin Label, BVP’s cleantech partner. The company calls its product a “flat plate internal concentrator solar module," and is using an “Asymmetric, linear focus optic with 2-3X geometric concentration." SV has recently moved into a 15,000 sq. ft. headquarters/pilot production facility in Sunnyvale, Calif. and has begun producing test samples on its pilot line
Whitfield Solar: U.K.-based Whitfield Solar is spun out of Reading University and uses an array of Fresnel lenses to concentrate the sun’s energy. Whitfield’s initial products are silicon-based and compete with flat-plate PV panels.
ZenithSolar: Israel-based ZenithSolar, founded by Roy Segev, has developed a modular and scalable high-concentration PV system.
Zytech: Private firm headquartered in Spain manufacturing LCPV and HCPV. Zytech is a Spanish company with captive manufacturing and strategic sourcing in China. KPMG Hong Kong's advisory practice is representing the firm in its fund raising efforts.
Next up is Part 3, Next-Generation PV startups.