Another day, another dollar, or $50 million of them. Nanosolar is now the most heavily-funded thin-film solar cell manufacturer outside the public market, with a new investment from a French company that wants it to churn out cells more quickly.
Nanosolar’s cells, which the company only started producing in December, are among the cheapest on the market, which is reason enough for it to continue attracting attention from investors like EDF Energies Nouvelles. The company’s CIGS technology, while less efficient than silicon, is also far less expensive, and most other CIGS makers don’t have a product yet. Its pricing is reportedly competitive with First Solar (NASDAQ: FSLR), a thin-film manufacturer with a $20 billion market cap.
That doesn’t mean a great deal at the moment, because the market is begging for cheap solar cells; true competition will take a couple years more. That will give Nanosolar time to lower costs more by scaling up production further. CEO Martin Rosencheisen told me that the company’s two existing facilities are capable of producing more than 100MW of cells each year at top capacity, and it will probably be building more factories soon.
Exactly how much has Nanosolar raised? By my count, it’s at about $170 million, including a large Department of Energy award. According to several sources, the company shopped itself out for the latest round at a $2 billion valuation.
If that valuation keeps rising, the only options remaining will be a big-ticket acquisition by a larger company or, more likely, an IPO — but the company and its investors will probably want to wait until some of the current market woes have worked themselves out. That could be the end of this year, by which time it will likely be hungry for more capital anyway.