Two mega-deals announced by Nanosolar and AVA Solar last week reflected investors' increasingly large bets on thin-filmsolartechnologies.

Thin-film solar has conquered only a fraction of the solar market today, where most of the panels use crystalline silicon to convert sunlight into electricity. Thin films aren't as efficient at producing power, and manufacturing them in large volumes has proven challenging. But they use little or no silicon, making them an appealing option amid today's silicon shortage.

Nanosolar confirmed that it had raised $300 million in equity and closed the deal back in March. The San Jose, Calif. company plans to use the money to expand its existing factory in its hometown and to build a new one in Germany (see Nanosolar Confirms $300M Funding). It began shipping its first commercial panels, which use copper indium gallium selenide, last December.

Most of the new cash came from AES Corp, the Carlyle Group, EDF and Energy Capital Partners through Riverstone Holdings and EDF Renewables. The remainder came from Lone Pine Capital, the Skoll Foundation and the Omidyar Network, GLG Partners, Beck Energy and Grazia Equity.

AVA Solar, which is in pilot production, raised $104 million. DCM led AVA's new round of funding, which also came from Technology Partners, GLG Partners, Bohemian Companies and Invus (see AVA Solar Gets $104M).

Here are some of the other deals announced in the last week:

PRIVATE:

Solar:

  • Silfab SpA, a silicon producer in Italy, plans to receive €30 million ($44.7 million) from Sino-American Silicon Product. Silfab plans to use the money to build its first manufacturing plant, which is expected be able to produce up to 5,000 metric tons of solar-grade silicon per year. The plant is scheduled to begin production in the forth quarter of 2009. Silfab also has signed a contract to supply its new investor with 500 metric tons of the silicon per year for six years, starting in 2010.
  • Xunlight raised $11 million to expand its manufacturing of thin-film solar panels. The company, based in Toledo, Ohio, is developing thin films with amorphous silicon, amorphous silicon germanium and nanocrystalline silicon. Xunlight, which already operates a 2-megawatt pilot plant, is building a 25-megawatt plant.

Other:

  • Solazyme raised $45 million to grow algae in massive quantities without sunlight and harvest the plants' oil to make biofuels (see Green Light post). The company, based in South San Francisco, Calif., raised the money from Roda Group, Haris & Haris Group, Braemar Energy Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners.
  • Miox raised $19 million from DCM, Sierra Ventures and Flywheel Ventures (see Green Light post). The company, based in Albuquerque, N.M., is developing water-treatment systems for consumers and industrial treatment plants.
  • Nexterra Energy, a Canadian developer of biomass-gasification technology, raised C$3.8 million ($3.6 million) from ARC Financial Corp. The company's gasification systems turn wood chips and other green waste into syngas for producing heat and electricity. Nexterra's systems are used by companies in both Canada and the United States.
  • Natural Cleaners Colorado, a dry cleaner using environmentally friendly processes, raised $1.9 million from Advantage Capital Partners. Natural Cleaners, based in Avon, Colo., uses a carbon dioxide-based cleaning method and the GreenEarth process created by General Electric and Procter & Gamble.
  • EpiSensor, a smart-grid technology developer in Ireland, raised €1 million ($ 1.46 million). The company uses the ZigBee wireless standard to create energy-monitoring devices. The funding included €500,000 ($730,152) from Enterprise Equity, €250,000 ($365,095) from Enterprise Ireland and €250,000 ($365,095) from the company founder Gary Carroll, his family and company director Brendan O'Malley.
  • First Wind raised an undisclosed tax equity investment from Lehman Brothers Holdings for a 20-megawatt wind farm that was completed in Lackawanna, N.Y. First Wind, based in Newton, Mass., filed papers with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to go public on the Nasdaq stock exchange. It plans to raise up to $450 million (see Funding Roundup: more IPOs for Wind, Solar).

PUBLIC:

  • EverQ plans to raise more than €500 million ($736 million) through an initial public offering or a combination of IPO and debt financing, reported Bloomberg. The German solar-cell maker, which is able to make up to 100 megawatts per year, is installing equipment in a third factory this month that will increase the production capacity to 180 megawatts per year. The company is owned by Renewable Energy Corp., Q-Cells and Evergreen Solar.

FUNDS:

  • Guggenheim Investment Management is raising for a $500 million fund to invest in energy companies, reported Private Equity Week. It already has brought in about $150 million from investors such as Midland National Life Insurance.
  • CMEA Ventures is looking at raising a $400 million cleantech fund, reported the San Francisco Business Times. The San Francisco firm has hired Ali Iz, who worked on business development and project financing at General Electric, to handle the fund raising. CMEA plans to invest in companies that need money to build manufacturing plants.
  • CLSA Capital Partners in Hong Kong has launched a fund to invest in Asian companies developing water supply and distribution and wastewater treatment projects. An undisclosed London investment firm provided the $35 million seed money for the fund.