Thin-film solar makers have long sought to take business away from the dominant players in the market, the producers of traditional, silicon-based panels. It might finally happen.
Global thin-film production will likely double every year to reach 4.18 gigawatts worth of equipment in 2010, according to a market-research report by Greentech Media and the Prometheus Institute last week. The growth is expected to continue and reach 10 gigawatts in 2012 (see Thin-Film Solar Set to Take Market Share from Crystalline Solar PV).
"The thin-film [photovoltaics] sector is going to make a major impact on the overall growth of the PV industry in the next five years," wrote authors Sorin Grama and Travis Bradford, both of the Prometheus Institute. "It will change the economics to customers, trigger a more competitive landscape for all solar-energy technologies and force capital markets to assess and adapt yet again to a changing solar landscape."
Investors certainly are placing more bets on thin film, a technology that relies on little or no silicon and produces thin and flexible panels. Thin-film startup Nanosolar announced last month it had raised $300 million to expand its production of panels using copper, indium, gallium and selenium, or CIGS (see Nanosolar Confirms $300M Funding).
In other funding news:
- Enphase Energy, a micro-inverter developer, raised $15 million. The startup, based in Petaluma, Calif., launched its first product over the summer. The inverters convert electricity from each solar panel from direct current into alternating current for the electric grid (see Enphase Raises $15M, Boosts Production). Investors include RockPort Capital Partners, Third Point Ventures and Applied Ventures.
- Concentrator Optics has received funding from Capricorn Venture Partners. Concentrator, based in Germany, is developing Fresnel lenses for building concentrating-photovoltaic power plants. Concentrator plans to use the undisclosed funding to build a 100-megawatt manufacturing plant in Germany.
- Pyron Solar, a concentrating-photovoltaic startup, raised $1 million from New Energies Invest. Pyron, based in San Diego, plans to use the money to carry out a pilot project with an undisclosed utility in Southern California. Pyron previously received $2 million from New Energies, which has an option to invest an additional $1 million.
- Fisker Automotive raised $65 million to develop and make its first car model, a sporty plug-in hybrid electric called Karma. The Irvine, Calif., startup plans to start delivering the $80,000 Karma in the fourth quarter of 2009. An affiliate of Qatar Investment Authority led the C round funding, which also came from Palo Alto Investors and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (see Fisker Raises Fistfuls of Cash).
- Think Global aims to raise $80 million by the end of this year, reported VentureWire (via VentureBeat). The electric carmaker in Norway plans to increase its production capacity to 10,000 cars by the end of 2009. In March, the company said it wanted to bring its five-seat car, Think Ox, to the U.S. market by as early as 2010 (see Think Global to Bring Electric Crossover to U.S.).
- Adura Systems, a developer of serial plug-in hybrid intellectual property, said it had raised a bridge financing from its first investor, New Frontier Renewable Energy. The company, based in Menlo Park, Calif., declined to disclose the funding amount. Adura said it's developing software and electronics designs that can greatly improve fuel efficiency. The company is targeting city bus makers as its first customers.
- Biohydrogen, which is developing a process for making hydrogen by using genetically modified bacteria and sugar-based feedstock, has raised £170,000 ($304,210) through a convertible loan note from Fusion IP. Biohydrogen was spun out of the University of Sheffield.
- The Vroon Group, a Dutch shipping business, has obtained a €200 million ($353.6 million) loan to pay for its current wind turbine-installation ship and to build two other ships. Fortis Merchant Banking coordinated the financing with Commerzbank, Dexia Bank, Loyds TSB and Rabobank. The ships carry wind turbines to offshore wind farms.
- Solar EnerTech Corp. has invested $1 million in 21-Century Silicon. Solar EnerTech, based in Menlo Park, Calif., also signed a four-year supply agreement with the Dallas silicon maker. The solar company, whose shares are traded over the counter under the symbol "SOEN," expects its first shipment in the second quarter of 2009.
- Cereplast, a developer of bio-based plastics, raised $2.6 million through selling its shares at $0.22 per share. The company, based in Hawthorne, Calif., plans to use the money to expand its manufacturing capability, research and development and sales. The company, which is traded over the counter under the symbol "CERP," has developed the technology to replace nearly all of the petroleum-based additives used in making plastics with starches from corn, wheat, tapioca and potatoes.
- British venture-capital firm Wheb Ventures has raised £57 million ($102 million) of a £150 million ($268.4 million) greentech fund. Investors include Simon Robertson, chairman of Rolls-Royce, and Lord Jacob Rothschild. Wheb has invested in companies including AquaSpy, which develops sensors and software for water management, and Bowman Power Group, which engineers turbo-generator technology that turns exhaust from a diesel engine into electrical power for running on-board system.
- Sustainable Technologies Fund in Sweden raised €58 million ($84 million) from investors such as Sixth Swedish National Pension Fund and the Third Swedish National Pension Fund. Sustainable, launched in 2007, has invested in Swebo Bioenergy and Suncore. The investment company plans to invest in 12 to 15 companies over the next five years.
- Fortis Investments plans to raise €400 million ($566.9 million) for a new cleantech fund. The firm already has raised €50 million ($70.87 million) from Fortis. The investment house plans to use the fund to finance wind, solar, biomass and small hydro projects.