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CaliSolar to make metallurgical silicon solar cells

Start-up CaliSolar is said to have raised $102 million to commercialize a technique of using upgraded metallurgical silicon to make solar cells.

Solar start-up CaliSolar has raised a total of $102 million to go ahead with plans to manufacture solar cells from upgraded metallurgical silicon, according to a report.

Citing a regulatory filing, PEHub reported that CaliSolar has raised almost $52 million in a series B preferred stock funding and $50 million in convertible securities.

Martin LaMonica/CNET Networks

Hudson Clean Energy Partners, a private equity firm focused on scaling up energy technology firms, led the funding, according to the report.

CaliSolar, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., is seeking to commercialize a technology originally conceived at the University of California at Berkeley to process so-called metallurgical-grade silicon. By upgrading this "dirty" silicon, the company hopes to lower the price of solar cells, most of which today are made from polysilicon.

The challenge with solar cells made from metallurgical silicon is that they are less efficient than polysilicon solar cells. CaliSolar's "crystallization" technology improves the process of making ingots and efficiency of cells, according to the company.

German solar producer Q-Cells, as well as other solar companies, are investing in metallurgical solar cell technology, among other alternative materials to polysilicon.

A surge in demand for polysilicon from solar and chip manufacturers created a silicon shortage that many analysts expect to ease in the next two years. With more silicon available, the cost of polysilicon cells and solar panels is expected to decline.