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Solar concentrator collects $63 million in new funding

SolFocus is designing solar power plants that use mirrors and lenses to concentrate light onto high-efficiency solar panels.

SolFocus has now raised a total of $63.6 million in series B funding to move into production of its solar power plants.

An extra $11.6 million in funding, announced Tuesday, complements the $52 million in series B funding the company announced in September. Altogether, the company has raised $95 million in venture capital.

SolFocus, which was spun out of Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) is perhaps the most high-profile company to pursue solar concentrators, where mirrors and lenses magnify light in order to squeeze more electricity from very efficient solar cells.

These solar installations--usually ground-mounted machines, are typically geared at utilities or large businesses. Concentrating solar power competes with solar farms of photovoltaic panels and solar thermal technology, which uses reflective troughs or mirrors to heat liquid that turns a turbine.

SolFocus also makes tracking systems that maximize the angle of solar concentrators and solar thermal systems.

As the company completes its funding, there are growing concerns over the valuation of public solar companies and whether a recent wave of solar start-ups can provide the products that utilities demand. Venture capitalists are poised to invest $1 billion in solar-related companies this year.

Pacific Gas & Electric--one of the most aggressive utilities in adopting renewable energy--told the San Francisco Chronicle this week that renewable energy companies "technically aren't able to deliver." Because many of the companies pursuing renewable energy technologies are start-ups and not fully tested, PG&E may not be able to meet its goal of using 20 percent renewable energy by 2010, CEO Peter Darbee said.