Intel Capital spreads its solar bets with Sulfurcell

After spinning off SpectraWatt for silicon cells, Intel Capital invests in thin-film expert Sulfurcell in Germany to expand production.

Intel's venture capital arm, Intel Capital, on Wednesday said it has invested in German thin-film solar cell manufacturer Sulfurcell.

Intel Capital led the $133.7 million (85 million euro) round with a $37.7 million contribution. The money will be used to expand the company's existing production, which started in 2005.

A module using Sulfurcell's CIGS thin-film solar cells. Sulfurcell

The announcement follows the spin-off last month of SpectraWatt, a manufacturer of silicon solar cells, from Intel.

Sulfurcell, by contrast, is an expert in thin-film solar cells made from a combination of materials in the CIS/CIGSe (Copper-Indium-Sulfide/Selenide) family of chemicals. The company was spun out of Hahn-Meitner-Institut, a Berlin-based research institute specializing in thin-film photovoltaics.

Intel Capital's clean-tech strategy is to invest in a number of different areas including solar, energy efficiency, power generation and storage, and transportation.

Chip rival IBM is also moving into the thin-film solar cell arena through a manufacturing partnership with Tokyo Ohka Kogyo (TOK).

Thin-film cells, particularly those made from CIGS (copper, indium, gallium, and selenide), are one of the hottest areas of clean-tech investment.

Because they use much less material than silicon, they can be more cost-effective on a price-per-watt basis.

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