This week, two solar cell “startups” that couldn’t be further away in terms of their efficiencies or materials won funding from VCs and strategic investors.
Sol Voltaics claims its GaAs nanowires can boost a 17 percent efficient solar module to 22 percent. The company just won $9.4 million led by Umoe, along with Industrifonden, Nano Future Invest, Foundation Asset Management, Provider Venture, Scatec, and Teknoinvest. Umoe’s CEO Jens Ullveit-Moe is the former chairman of REC Solar. Kang Sun, former CEO of JA Solar and current CEO of Amprius, joined the board of directors.
“With this closing we now have the resources to take the company to pilot production,” said David Epstein, CEO, Sol Voltaics. Epstein, a former VC at Crosslink Capital, moved to Sweden to helm Sol Voltaics. Commercial production of enhanced modules will begin in 2015 and move into volume production in 2016, according to the company.
We reported on the Swedish solar startup and its gallium-arsenide (GaAs) nanowires in April of this year. In June, the firm collected a $6 million conditional loan from the Swedish Energy Agency, Sweden’s national authority for energy policy issues.
“We’re making an active ink to put on top of solar panels,” said the CEO in our earlier report. Sol Voltaics plans to use GaAs nanowires to create another absorber layer on top of existing solar cells to extract more light and raise efficiency by 25 percent — an enormous stride, as far as solar efficiency numbers go. This suggests that a 17-percent-efficient crystalline silicon panel has the potential to reach 22 percent efficiency with the addition of the nanowires.
The GaAs nanowires are tiny solar cells about 1 or 2 microns long and approximately 100 nanometers in diameter, and they’re sold as an ink-like solution. The layer of nanowires acts like a second solar panel, according to the CEO, and can “capture light very effectively on top of panels using a phenomenon called wave-concentrated photovoltaics (WCPV).” He claims that “the method we use to make these products is cost-effective with silicon.”