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SolFocus raises $52 million more for concentrator

The European market is hot, so the solar technology company plans to expand there.

SolFocus, a solar technology company that was incubated at the Palo Alto Research Center (now an offshoot of Xerox), has raised $52 million more dollars to help it launch in Europe.

The company, which had previously raised $27 million, specializes in solar concentrators, which direct more sunlight onto solar cells that would ordinarily fall on them. The more sunlight, the more electricity the solar cell can generate. The more electricity a cell can generate, the more economical solar energy--which generally still costs about twice as much as regular grid power--becomes.

SolFocus' concentrators magnify the light 500 times. Several companies make solar concentrators, and SolFocus' figures are in the general ballpark of efficiency. Some, such as GreenVolts, claim higher efficiency, but others sport lower. Buyers, though, are also concerned about durability and maintenance. Concentrators move with the sun to maximize output.

The company's products are aimed at the commercial market, such as retail stores or office parks. Placed on a roof, solar concentrators can cool off a building and generate power on-site. SolFocus also intends to build large-scale power generation, where a field of panels could generate several hundred megawatts of power.

SolFocus Europe will concentrate on the European market, which is larger than the U.S. solar market. The company will also start to develop products for the solar thermal market. In solar thermal technology, heat from the sun is converted to electricity. SolFocus' original products work with photovoltaic panels, which convert light to electricity.