Solexant, maker of photovoltaic panels with solar cells so thin that they are literally printed onto the panels’ surfaces, announced plans today for a 100-megawatt, commercial-scale panel assembly line — enough to provide power for as many as 800,000 homes. It says it will try to raise $50 million in a third round of funding to finance the project.
Right now, the San Jose, Calif. company is working on a much smaller 3-megawatt assembly line in San Jose. Its proprietary technology involves printing its extremely thin cells with what is increasingly known as “solar ink” onto a semiconducting surface, which is then covered with a sheet of glass to concentrate the sunlight captured.
Solexant anticipates its next round of funding to close next year, in hopes that it will be enough to cover the $40 to $50 million price tag on the new assembly line. To entice investors, it sets its technology apart from other companies working on thin-film photovoltaics. Because the cells are literally printed (they are that thin), they require a lot less crystalline silicon than traditional panels, and even most thin-film panels, lowering prices considerably. That being said, the company predicts the efficiency of its solar modules to hover around 10 percent, when the average for many other models is 12 percent. It’s unclear how much this will impact the product’s value in the long term.
So far, the government and investors seem to like the idea. Solexant plucked $900,000 in federal grants from the Department of Energy, and has raised $22.5 million to date from a flock of backers: X/Seed Capital, Firelake Capital Management, Medley Partners and Trident Capital, reports Dow Jones. In addition to raising another round of venture funding, the company has also expressed interest in applying for a loan guarantee through the Department of Energy.
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