Thin-film solar, once predicted to be the future of renewable energy, has fallen on hard times lately. Venture-backed thin-film companies have had a tough time raising money, and even the bigger players like Applied Materials have scaled back their goals in the area.
Nanosys, maker of nanomaterials used on solar panels, light-emitting diodes and energy-efficient screens, is close to raising $25 million in a much-needed fifth round of funding after limping along for several years. About $15 million came from Korean electronics powerhouse Samsung in exchange for a license to Nanosys’ intellectual property.
In June, California voters shot down Proposition 16, a measure backed by Pacific Gas & Electric that would have made it much harder for local governments to form their own utilities. Now one Northern California municipal utility is demonstrating why this was a wise choice.
Venture capital funding in cleantech companies swelled to $1.5 billion in the second quarter of 2010, its highest level since Q3 2008, according to a report released today by Ernst & Young. This is a staggering 64 percent increase over the amount invested in Q2 last year.
Chinese thin-film solar module maker Trony Solar has canceled its filing for an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange after eight months. The move further solidifies the green sector’s miserable IPO streak.
The future hasn’t been looking too bright for thin-film solar companies lately. Persistent high costs and low energy efficiencies have stymied a technology that was once meant to trump traditional crystalline solar panels.
Applied Materials, one of several major corporations to jump into the solar energy business four years ago, announced today that it is scrapping its line of equipment used to make thin-film solar panels and laying off an estimated 500 employees in this division.
[Update: Thirty Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives banded together today to pitch a bill that would protect the PACE program detailed below. The bill would force corporations that took bailout money to stay afloat -- like Fannie and Freddie -- to support PACE despite their opposition.]
Calisolar, maker of cheaper, high-efficiency solar cells, has raised a fresh $15 million to get it closer to its goal of producing more than 200-megawatts worth of solar materials, according to Director of Marketing Bret Adams.
Mayfield Fund is one of several well-known Silicon Valley venture capital firms dancing around the green sector. Its M.O. so far has been to invest in relatively capital-efficient plays in lighting and energy efficiency.
Last week, electric car maker Tesla Motors made history as the first automotive company to go public since Ford in the 1950s, but its share price continues to drop, down another 9.24 percent so far today. Despite its buzz and sex appeal, it looks like the company won’t be able to escape the fate of other green stocks, which continue to perform miserably.
The green sector has a reason to celebrate during a red, white and blue weekend. President Barack Obama used his weekly video address to announce $2 billion in stimulus funds for solar power companies. The plan is to employ thousands of people while making solar technology competitive with fossil fuel sources of energy.
SunRun, a company working to make rooftop solar panels more affordable for average households, just took a big leap forward today, announcing a $100 million joint program with major utility Pacific Gas & Electric. Together, the companies say they will help the utility’s customers finance more than 3,500 rooftop solar systems across five states.
Solyndra, the maker of cylindrical solar cells that filed to go public late last December, has withdrawn that filing from the SEC, choosing instead to raise $175 million by selling convertible promissory notes to some of its existing investors. The news spells trouble for the rapidly growing company, and its thin-film solar peers.
Stealthy thin-film solar panel developer Stion announced yesterday that it has landed a partnership with the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC). Today, it’s keeping the good news rolling with announcements of $70 million in fourth-round capital and new plans to expand its San Jose, Calif. manufacturing facility in size and headcount.
The chip-making powerhouse that is the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is going the way of its American competitors, like Applied Materials, by investing heavily in promising new solar technology. Its choice: Stion, a San Jose, Calif.-based startup working to develop thin-film solar panels using CIGSS (copper indium gallium sulfur-selenide) technology.
[See the bottom of this post for a video walk-through of SunPower's Richmond, Calif. facility]
Tigo Energy, maker of a device that keeps tabs on solar panels and makes sure they are working at full capacity, has raised $10 million from Inventec Appliances. The two companies have also signed a joint manufacturing and logistics agreement that should expedite the growth of Tigo’s manufacturing and sales operations.
Utility Scale Solar, maker of solar tracking devices, has raised $1.1 million in equity, options, warrants and other securities from undisclosed investors, according to a filing with the SEC. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., the company develops heliostats, called Megahelions, to make sun tracking cheaper and more efficient for the solar industry.
National Semiconductor, one of the biggest names in the semiconductor industry — hit hard in the last two years by the economic downturn — is diversifying its interests, particularly in the green direction. The company announced today that it will be selling a chipset that can up solar panel output.
President Barack Obama, in Northern California this week to campaign for Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), made a stop Wednesday at cylindrical solar module maker Solyndra, to promote the climate and energy legislation that made its debut in the Senate several weeks ago, and to throw his weight behind the company, which has encountered hurdles on its way to an IPO.
Solaicx isn’t your garden-variety silicon wafer maker. The Santa Clara, Calif. company says it has devised a manufacturing process that allows it to churn out extremely efficient monocrystalline wafers tailored for the solar market at a viciously competitive low price — the holy grail of photovoltaics.
BrightSource Energy, one of the biggest and most promising companies building solar thermal power plants, has just raised $150 million in a fourth round of capital — boosting its total over the $300 million mark — to establish its dominance in the southwest U.S. and a foothold overseas.
The movement toward a cleaner, more efficient Smart Grid is suddenly becoming vital to a range of existing companies. Appliance makers, software empires and automotive giants alike are all rushing to get a piece of what is quickly becoming a billion dollar business unto itself. The newest entrant: Mitsubishi Electric, which today threw down $76 million for a far-reaching Smart Grid strategy (PDF).
Jinko Solar, a Chinese maker of solar wafers, cells and modules, launched onto the market today at a price of $11 a share — the low end of its predicted $11 to $13 range. While solar is on uncertain ground, the close to $45 million sale may mark the most promising green sector IPO in a long time. The difference? Real profits.
SolarCity, one of the leading companies making lower-priced rooftop solar panels for homeowners and small businesses, is expanding its reach today with the acquisition of residential energy efficiency company Building Solutions. The deal could be one of the boldest moves yet to combine solar power generation with home energy management, a growing area of interest for th eindustry.
Concentrating solar got a big boost today, with solar module maker Solaria bagging $45 million in new venture funding. With funding shifting away from capital-intensive renewable energy products, this is a big win for the company, which aims to lower panel price tags by cutting down on silicon requirements.
First Solar, the largest solar company in the world, announced today that it will be acquiring its chief rival, NextLight Renewable Power, a developer of solar power projects, for about $285 million. The deal will add 1.1-gigawatts worth of solar panel arrays to the larger company’s 1.4-gigawatt pipeline.
Fitting with the trend toward more capital-efficient investments in cleantech, microinverter maker SolarBridge Technologies raised $15 million in a second round of venture funding today. The company produces a small component of photovoltaic systems, but could make a big difference in how solar is used.
Dow Chemical says it is ready for its thin-film solar roofing shingles to go on sale next year — one of the first technologies to make solar panels and roofs one and the same, and a step toward increasing the affordability and physical appeal of going solar for residential consumers.
The world’s first solar airplane, the Solar Impulse, passed its first flight test with flying colors — in preparation for a round-the-world trip. The next step will be to see if it’s capable of staying aloft in the dark.
Applied Quantum Technology (AQT) said today that it is overcoming one of the major hurdles standing between thin-film solar innovation and mass commercialization: cost. It has joined forces with Intevac, maker of equipment used to build hard drives, to turn out solar cells in higher and cheaper volumes.
Following its loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy, solar module maker Solyndra has been facing a battery of audits. Sounds like simple due diligence, but now auditors have called attention to the Fremont, Calif. company’s avalanche of debt and regular losses — findings that could actually dash its hopes for a $300 million public sale.
Suniva, one of the many silicon solar cell makers racing for higher and higher conversion efficiencies, just got the boost it needs to potentially leave its competition in the dust: a $141 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Expanding on its incentives package for wind power, India is launching a major solar energy deployment campaign. With 9,000 megawatts of solar already up and running, the country has set a goal to have 20,000 megawatts of capacity online by 2022 — enough power to run about 20 million U.S. households. How does India plan to do it? Major subsidies.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9K4zosGUMBw&w=560&h=345] Google is funding the Lunar X Prize, a competition that will award $20 million to the first team that lands a private unmanned spacecraft on the moon, and then broadcasts a high-definition video back to earth. Additionally, it will award two other $5 million prizes for lesser missions.
Here’s the latest action in green technology (updated):
A team of semiconductor industry veterans today announced the launch of Signet Solar, a solar photovoltaic (PV) module manufacturer that hopes to disrupt the fast growing solar industry by significantly reducing the manufacturing costs of solar panels.