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Solar start-up SolFocus buys sun-tracking company

In emerging market for concentrator photovoltaic systems, SolFocus buys Inspira, a provider of specialized sun movement trackers.

SolFocus, which builds high-end solar-power systems, on Wednesday said it has acquired Madrid, Spain-based Inspira, a provider of specialized sun "trackers," for an undisclosed price.

A spin-off from Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center, SolFocus builds solar concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) arrays that use several small mirrored dishes to magnify sunlight hundreds of times to get more electricity from high-efficiency solar cells.

SolFocus' concentrating photovoltaic arrays. SolFocus

Inspira has developed control systems that precisely track the movement of the sun during the day to maximize light intake. These types of trackers are common on concentrator solar-power systems, which seek to squeeze more power from pricey photovoltaic cells. Inspira also makes controls for traditional flat-plate solar panels used in large "power fields," where hundreds or thousands of panels are lined up.

Inspira will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of SolFocus and continue to make products for both markets, said Nancy Hartsoch, SolFocus' vice president of marketing.

SolFocus already uses Inspira's trackers and its arrays. By bringing SolFocus' expertise in manufacturing at the large scale to Inspira's product line, the company hopes to bring down the cost of the trackers, Hartsoch said.

"Tracker technology with concentrator photovoltaics is integral to how well the system performs and integral to bringing the cost down. It's in our best interest to bring tracker cost down--and it benefits the entire CPV industry as a whole," she said.

SolFocus, which raised $32 million in a series A round of funding, is testing its concentrator photovoltaic arrays this year and plans to have commercially available products next year. The target applications are large commercial solar installations or midsize power plants.