Solar start-up SoloPower on Thursday said it landed a series B round of $30 million, in a vote of confidence for a nascent solar panel technology.
Oslo, Norway-based Convexa Capital led the round, which was joined by existing investors. Altogether, SoloPower is in line to receive over $42 million in venture capital and grants.
The $30 million will be used primarily to build up a 20-megawatt manufacturing facility near its Milpitas, Calif., headquarters, said company CEO Homayoun Talieh on Thursday. By the third quarter of next year, it expects to have that plant operating and delivering commercial products, he said.
SoloPower uses a process called electroplating to layer a combination of elements referred to as CIGS (copper indium gallium selenide) onto a foil substrate to make cells. A number of companies, including Miasole, DayStar Technologies, Nanosolar and Heliovolt, are building up manufacturing processes to fabricate solar cells from CIGS. Although CIGS cells aren't as efficient in converting light to electricity as widely used silicon cells, proponents say that CIGS will be cheaper.
Yet, at least some CIGS companies have run into some problems ramping up as quickly as hoped: Miasole, for example, has had trouble getting the same efficiency throughout its cells.
Talieh said that electroplating allows for a less wasteful use of the raw material and delivers more consistent efficiency on the cell, compared with other processes.
"It's one of the oldest technologies around," he said of electroplating which is used to put chrome on the bumper of cars and in circuit boards. "It's even been tried for solar cells of CIGS, but it has not been successful because of a few challenges. But we have been fortunate enough to have solutions to those challenges."
Talieh said its cells can be used in either residential or commercial solar panels.
In the solar industry, CIGS and silicon are often pitted as competitors. But Talieh said that the company's target is being commercially competitive with fossil fuel sources of power generation, rather than silicon-based solar panels.
"It's what the solar industry needs to do because once the subsidies go away, the solar industry has to stand on its own two feet. I think that can be done by 2010," he said.