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One of the major barriers standing in the way of solar power’s wider adoption is its high cost. Sierra Solar plans to address this problem by offering cheaper thin-film photovoltaic cells, and just raised $40 million in a second round of funding to do it.

The Fremont, Calif. company achieves its cost-effective prices by manufacturing its products in China. On the use side, Sierra’s cells are reportedly 16 to 17 percent efficient (the average is 15 percent for thin-film modules), and it sells excess power back to local utilities. Eventually, the company says its processes could lower the cost of solar by $1 per watt. This is pretty significant considering that it expects to generate up to 15 megawatts of energy this year.

In addition to making the cells, Sierra offers a fairly wide range of related energy products to cut down on energy consumption in the home, including long-storage batteries, refrigeration units, water pumps, solar ovens and the actual solar panels themselves. It even markets videos and books meant to educate casual audiences about solar energy and its potential.

Investors in the recent round have not been disclosed, but Sierra previously raised $7.1 million from GSR Ventures and DragonTech Ventures. Shortly after its founding in 2007, executives set a goal to raise $60 to $70 million over the course of three rounds. So far they seem to be on track. And other indicators are promising. Marquee thin film names NanoSolar and Solyndra raised big money — $300 million and $600 million, respectively — just a few months ago.


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