Miasolé's Thin-Film Funding

Thin-film solar-cell maker Miasolé has snagged $50 million in a fourth round of funding. VentureWire, which broke the news Wednesday, said the deal included six new investors, but did not name names.

Thin-film solar cells use little or no silicon, the costliest part of most solar cells. Companies claim that with the technology they will be able to lower costs beyond silicon-based cells.

Miasolé uses copper-indium-gallium-selenide (CIGS), the highest-efficiency thin-film material. The approach is also being used by startups like HelioVolt and Nanosolar.

The last time Miasolé, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based company, raised capital was in October, when it grabbed $35 million. And again, the company didn't disclose investors. But earlier backers include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, VantagePoint Venture Partners, Firelake Strategic Technology Fund, Garage Technology Ventures and Nippon Kouatsu Electric.

Greentech Pulls in the Green

Global venture-capital investments in green technology experienced a nice uptick, reaching $1.1 billion in the first half of 2007, according to a report Ernst & Young and Dow Jones VentureOne released Wednesday. The deals put global cleantech investing on track to grow 35 percent over 2006, the report said.

The United States led the investment pack, raising more than $893 million in 71 deals. U.S. cleantech investments made up 5.4 percent of total VC investment in the first half, up from 1.4 percent in 2001, according to the report. Solar investments got the most cash, accounting for 15 of 26 deals and $305 million.

Europe cleantech investments also have experienced high growth, making up 4.4 percent of total VC investments compared with 1.6 percent in 2001, according to the report. European companies closed 19 deals totaling $80 million in the first six months of 2007, with most of that investment in alternative fuels.

Ernst & Young and VentureOne also expect venture-capital investments in Chinese and Israeli cleantech companies to continue to grow.

The accelerating investments reflect the growing importance of the greentech sector, said Gil Forer, global director of Ernst & Young's Venture Capital Advisory Group.

"Clean technology has moved from vision to reality, and it's now a priority on the CEO agenda of every company from the entrepreneurial growth companies to the multinational market leaders," he said.

Upping the Cell Supply

Module producer Solar Semiconductor said Wednesday it signed a $170-million agreement to buy 156 megawatts worth of cells from Germany's Ersol Solar Energy.

The solar cells will be used for module production in Solar Semiconductor's manufacturing plant in Hyderabad, India.

Franz Ziering, director of sales at Ersol, said it picked Solar Semiconductor because of the company's high quality. Solar Semiconductor, founded in 2006, has manufacturing technology that it claims can use thinner solar cells more efficiently than competitors. It makes modules with three conductive strips, called busbars, instead of two.

"We are selecting partners very much based on quality," Ziering said. "We like how they handle our cells."

He said he sees the United States and India as among the fastest-growing potential markets, and Solar Semiconductor is well-positioned in those markets.

Solar Semiconductor, which also signed a $170-million supply contract with Q-Cells in August, said it has been working with Ersol for more than a year to negotiate this deal.

Securing more cells is imperative for Solar Semiconductors to meet its growth goals, said CEO Hari Surapaneni. The Sunnyvale, Calif.,-based company said it plans to double its current 50-megawatt module-manufacturing capacity by early 2008. It has about half the silicon it needs for 2008, Surapaneni said.

The company, bootstrapped from money made from the $98.6 million sale of the founders' previous company, semiconductor company Chiplogic, to Analog Devices in 2000, isn't looking for VC funding. "We're beyond that point," Surapanemi said.

Solar Semiconductor does plan to seek private-equity funding next quarter, however, to quadruple its capacity by the end of 2008, he said.