Applied Materials backs solar inspection and quality-control startup

Applied Materials is in the middle of restructuring its solar strategy. It recently called it quits on its SunFab line of equipment for thin-film solar cell manufacturing, cutting 500 jobs in the process. But now it’s sinking money into a new business : solar inspection and quality control. The company’s investment arm, Applied Ventures, joined a $3.8 million first round of funding for BT Imaging, a startup that does just that.

Solar concentration firm GreenVolts grabs $7.5M for power plant

GreenVolts, a company that develops solar concentration technology for utility companies, has raised $7.5 million of an expected $11.3 million in debt funding. Oak Investment Partners participated in the round, according to a filing with the SEC. Based in Fremont, Calif., the company focuses sunlight on high-efficiency solar cells and is currently building a 3 MW power plant for Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) in Tracy, Calif.

Nanosys lands $25M, expansive deal with Samsung

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.

Green stocks sputtering out on public markets as Zipcar nears IPO

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.

Obama shines on solar power with $2B in new funding

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 scores $100M deal with PG&E to take 3,500 homes solar

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.

TSMC sinks $50 million into stealthy thin-film solar startup Stion

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.

Tigo takes $10M as more VCs fund solar optimization devices

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.

WIll Obama's energy speech at Solyndra give it a pre-IPO lift?

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.

Mitsubishi leaps into the Smart Grid game with $76M initiative

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).

SolarCity branches into energy efficiency with Building Solutions buy

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.

Solaria snaps up $45M for high-efficiency solar modules

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 buys solar developer NextLight for $285M

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.

SolarBridge spans gaps in solar with new $15M

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.