Semprius, a developer of concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) systems, raised $20 million of a $30 million venture round led by Siemens Venture Capital along with existing investors Arch Venture Partners, Applied Ventures, Illinois Ventures, Intersouth Partners, In-Q-Tel, and GVC Investment as per SEC documents.
The funding will go to establish a 5-megawatt pilot plant expandable to 35 megawatts, according to the company in an email statement to Bloomberg. Siemens owns a 16.1 percent stake in Semprius.Semprius
has a core semiconductor technology the firm believes can make CPV more competitive.
Semprius and the CPV industry has its work cut out for it. The flat plate photovoltiacs (PV) industry has grown at a compound annual rate of about 41 percent per year for the last decade to reach its current 2011 shipment pace of 20 gigawatts. And the price of c-Si solar continues to fall every calendar quarter. GTM Research has recently published a detailed analysis and forecast on the CPV market.
Ben Kortlang, a partner at Kleiner Perkins and investor in Amonix, claimed that CPV from Amonix "is cheaper than First Solar." First Solar is currently at about $0.75 per watt with their thin-film solar panels, so those are bold words from KP.
Spun out of the University of Illinois and founded in 2005, Semprius raised a $4.7 million round A in 2007 and won an additional $7.9 million round in 2009.
The 30-employee firm aspires to be a vertically integrated manufacturer of high-concentration PV panels using their own gallium arsenide (GaAs) micro-transfer printing-based chips while selling the panels to system integrators for mounting on 2-axis trackers.
Semprius does its own cell design and outsources the epi. Their micro-transfer printing technology allows the firm to reuse the GaAs substrate rather than shipping the expensive substrate out the door with every cell. Semprius claims that by reusing the substrate, they can reduce the cost by fifty percent. The cell structure is grown on top of a release layer so that the cells can be epitaxially lifted off as part of the micro-transfer printing process.
In order to be successful, Semprius needs to be better than all other HCPV companies and comparable to the very best wafer silicon and thin-film module companies. At the rate costs are dropping for silicon solar panels, that is a very high hurdle. Semprius also competes against triple-junction chip firms Emcore, Spectrolab, JDSU, Solar Junction, Cyrium, and Azure Space. Semprius joins fellow CPV firms GreenVolts and Morgan Solar in winning funding in the last month.