Last major independent U.S. solar panel maker limps through first quarter

Uncertainty about First Solar’s future operations led investors to smash the company’s shares in trading after the bell today after the company failed to grow its revenues in the first quarter this year — a sign of weakness for the last major independent solar panel manufacturer in the United States.

Flexible solar panel maker SoloPower raises $13.5M

SoloPower, a maker of flexible thin-film solar power panels, has raised $13.5 million in its fifth round of funding from Crosslink Capital and others, according to a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Sun rising on U.S. solar power despite trailing Europe in 2010 growth

Production and installation of solar power fixtures grew 67 percent in the United States — but it wasn’t enough to keep up with booming demand and growth of the solar power industry in Europe, according to a new report by the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Startups bet on solar panels on every home and building

Cleantech startups are expecting that the market for distributed solar energy — installing individual solar panels where power is needed — is going to grow as quickly as the personal computer and cellphone markets.

New reports say American solar outlook is bright, but Germany still dominates

Several reports have come out lately about the progress of the U.S. solar market. The numbers are mostly positive, showing growth, though there’s less demand and investment in the sector compared to the previous year. Germany, with its generous solar incentives, is still projected to be a global leader in solar, accounting for more than half of the world’s solar installations next year. Here’s a rundown of the latest solar reports:

On the GreenBeat: Carbon startup C3 looks to raise $50 million, White House goes solar

Energy and carbon management startup C3 is looking to raise almost $50 million in funding. The company was founded by Thomas Siebel, who sold Siebel Systems to Oracle for $5.9 billion in 2005, and counts Condeleeza Rice among its directors. It’s still in stealth mode, so details on the company and its products are scarce. Earth2tech notes it is entering crowded space — there are already 20 companies, including Hara, in the energy and carbon management space.

On the GreenBeat: Coda copies Apple’s sales strategy, DuPont beats forecast and hits $1 billion in solar sales

Coda will be selling its $45,000 all-electric sedan in malls, a sales strategy the startup likens to Apple’s. The company plans to put up storefronts within 10 to 12 miles of its target demographic (stores are planned for Los Angeles and California’s Bay Area) and plans to retain control of the stores, servicing cars, proffering a “no-pressure” sales environment and offering the cars for sale without markup. The company made waves when it announced the high price tag earlier this week because the relatively unknown vehicle is priced well above the cost of the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt, which, like Coda’s sedan, will be released in December.

On the GreenBeat: GE partners with Better Place, smart grid market poised to hit $9.6 billion by 2015

GE and electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure startup Better Place announced a partnership this morning. The collaboration will build compatibility between the products of the two companies, finance battery purchases abroad and push for greater EV adoption. The companies will help finance the purchase of 10,000 EV batteries in Israel and Denmark and will make GE’s WattStation charging stations (pictured) compatible with Better Place’s network of EV infrastructure. [Update: Check out our in-depth look at how the partnership will work.]

On the GreenBeat: A123 opens battery plant, Siemens targets India

A123 opens largest lithium-ion battery plant in the U.S. The Livonia, Mich. plant will expand the company’s manufacturing capabilities by up to 600 megawatt-hours per year, with the goal of ramping up to a total 760M megawatt-hours by next year’s end. The announcement comes one year after A123 was awarded a $249 million grant as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. As GigaOm notes, A123’s IPO last year opened at $17 per share but now trades at less than $10 per share. Another Michigan-based battery player, Sakti3, made news last week for winning a $3.2 million investment from the venture capital arm of GM.

On the GreenBeat: A long road ahead for electric car batteries, how Cisco’s spree affects smart grids

Electric vehicles face a long road to progress when it comes to its lithium-ion batteries, IBM scientist Winfried Wilcke tells the New York Times. Advances in lithium-ion technology have been slow, says Wilcke, whose team is trying to develop a technology that would extend EVs’ range to 500 miles on a single charge (current EVs have a range of around 100 miles). He likens the long road ahead to “climbing Mount Everest.”

SoloPower gets safety greenlight for flexible solar modules, will expand production

SoloPower announced today that it’s the first in the solar photovoltaic industry to receive a needed safety certification for its flexible CIGS solar module — panels that are easily adhered to roofs or building materials, and made of copper, indium, gallium and deselenide (hence, CIGS). The safety greenlight paves the way for the company to debut its product line and begin commercial-scale manufacturing.

On the GreenBeat: GRC cools servers with oil bath, the government as a cleantech VC

Startup Green Revolution Cooling has landed the first customer for its server cooling system that reduces server temperatures by way of an oil bath. Midas Networks is the first customer to be trying the cooling system out. The reasoning behind the system is that liquid can hold and transfer more heat than air. GRC says its oil mixture can cut data center power consumption by 45 percent. The Register has a video here.

On the GreenBeat: Cisco to acquire Arch Rock, Tesla fires back at GM

Cisco delves deeper into the smart grid market by announcing today its plans to acquire Arch Rock, a privately held company that makes IP-based wireless technology company for smart grid applications. This comes on the heels of yesterday’s announcement of their strategic alliance with smart meter giant Itron. Read more about it on CNET News and GigaOm.

SunPower lands sweet array of government contracts

Solar energy company SunPower Corp. has landed a sweet array of installation contracts for U.S. government entities, amounting to about 20 megawatts’ worth of new solar projects for groups such as the Navy and Marine Corps.