SolFocus is the latest Silicon Valley solar power startup to raise generous amounts of cash from investors, despite not having a product on the market yet.
SolFocus, of Mountain View, Calif., makes solar panels with mirrors that concentrate sunlight on electricity-generating cells. This reduces the need for silicon, an expensive substance used by the semiconductor market.The $52 million second round of funding we reported two months ago has now grown to $63.6 million with the addition of an unnamed hedge fund. The money will be split between SolFocus and its new subsidiary, SolFocus Europe.
In addition to its previous round, the latest round brings the SolFocus war chest to over $95 million, although a whopping $31.1 million of the latest round will go to help jump-start SolFocus Europe, the company’s new overseas division.
Like other solar companies, SolFocus is eager to get into the European market, where government subsidies often both make manufacturing cheaper and consumers more eager to buy, because of the subsidized prices. A number of other solar companies have also headed across the Atlantic, including HelioVolt (our coverage) and Nanosolar (our coverage).
SolFocus uses mirrors to direct more light into the center of the cell, a strategy that the company says halves the cost of traditional solar installations. The company will begin installing its panels for industrial applications in 2008.
Although the SolFocus is highly valued, and investors compete to put money into it, it’s not the only company that says it can drastically reduce the cost of photovoltaic cells. Both of the other two companies mentioned above, for example, make PV cells from Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS), a much cheaper material.