High-efficiency solar panel maker Solaria announced today it has raised $65 million in a fourth round of financing, $20 million more than its original target.
Solaria’s success flies in the face of recent speculation that the sun is setting for solar venture capitalism — and is another example of how investors are favoring crystalline silicon panels, which Solaria makes, over thin-film silicon makers. The company raised $45 million in May, and then locked down the additional $20 million in funding.
A number of solar players such as MiaSolé and Nanosolar bet on the trend of less silicon use when silicon prices were high, and banked on thin-film modules that are cheaper to make but have less efficiency than crystalline silicon modules. But silicon prices have since dropped, and those companies have struggled to get financing. In fact, Applied Materials dropped out of the thin-film business altogether in July, although Oerlikon stays firmly in the game with its announcement yesterday of a cheaper, more efficient line of thin-film products.
Solaria plans to use its new influx of cash to increase availability of its patented modules, which are currently available in North America, Europe and Asia. The new financing includes $10 million set aside for a new growth loan facility.
The company’s appeal lies in its technology, which can cut capital expenditure dramatically for solar module manufacturing. Its solar modules are built for use in tracking systems, which follow the sun’s movement across the sky to maximize absorption and are used in large-scale solar projects by industrial companies and utilities.
Solaria’s modules also pack a powerful punch thanks to its optical concentrators, which absorb more sunlight and can increase output by up to 30 percent. Its modules have about a 14 percent efficiency rating.
The company has high-profile backers such as CMEA Capital, which led this round of financing along with DBL Investors. It also signed on new investors in this round – Adams Street partners, Cycad Group and Western Technologies.
Other investors include Sigma Partners, NGEN Partners, Mitsui Ventures and Savitr Capital and EnXco.