Green

HelioVolt raises $101M — biggest solar investment yet?

HelioVolt, one of about ten companies racing to produce solar power cells based new cheaper material than traditional silicon, has raised $24 million more in financing for a its second round.

This brings the Austin, Texas’ company’s total second round to a huge $101 million, making it the largest clean-tech venture capital financing on record — or at least that we’re aware of. The company raised $77 million in August.
The funding comes at a time when about a half-dozen competitors are poised to release their own versions of the product on the market. By raising tons of cash, Heliovolt hopes to beat the rest by accelerating its manufacturing and sales process.

Like these other companies, the six-year-old Heliovolt is using the promising material called Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS), which is much more flexible and cheaper than silicon, the traditional material used in solar cells. One challenge CIGS has faced, however, is the efficiency at which it converts sun into electricity. CIGS has proven efficient in the labs, but in practice it has bedeviled some companies, leading several to delay their plans to hit the market.

However, the market for CIGS promises to be huge. CIGS is more efficient than telluride, another alternative material that has done well in the market. For example, First Solar, an Arizona publicly traded company that now has the highest market value ($5 billion) of any solar company uses thin-film solar technology too, applying telluride, not CIGS.

The huge funding suggests the investors at Heliovolt are confident the company will deliver. Investors include Sequel Venture Partners, Noventi Ventures, and Passport Capital. One of Noventi’s investors is Sorgenia, an Italian utility focused on its developing renewable energy.

The initial tranche of $77 million was led by Paladin Capital Group and the Masdar Clean Tech Fund. Additional participants were New Enterprise Associates as well as SolĂșcar Energia, Morgan Stanley Principal Investments, Sunton United Energy and Yellowstone Capital. HelioVolt says its CIGS deposition process is quicker and more reliable than competitors. It also says it can print CIGS onto a variety of materials and that its production line can be embedded into partners’ manufacturing facilities.

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  1. [...] in the competitive, high-stakes thin-film solar cell sector. The Austin, Texas, start-up, which raked in a cool $101 million in second round funding last October, claims its proprietary FASST reactive transfer printing [...]