R.I.P: Senergen Devices

SenergenDevices never got to unstealth
The Fremont, Calif.-based companyreceived more than $5 million from VantagePoint Venture Partners et al. in November of 2007.   According to an ex-employee, VantagePoint shut them down inMarch.  LinkedIn lists them as closed, the corporate website is offlineand their phone is disconnected.  VantagePoint has not responded toinquiries. Senergen is also listed as a portfolio company of investor Trident Capital. Mark Platshoninvested while at Trident.  Brad Mattson was the VantagePointrepresentative on Senergen’s board.

According to theex-employee, the firm was "depositing silane onto free-formmetallurgical-grade silicon substrates made via thermal spraying."

There is still a linkon the VantagePoint website that describes the firm as follows:"Senergen Devices is a solar cell manufacturing company that plans toproduce solar cells made from traditional silicon materials at very lowcosts. Senergen does not use silicon wafers as the solar cell substrate. Instead, it uses silicon in other forms to deposit the films on lessexpensive, readily available substrates. Senergen has demonstrated itcan bypass the expensive polysilicon manufacturing process by takingsilicon tetrachloride and depositing it on various substrates using ahigh temperature plasma beam."

The investor site also describesthe firm as being "committed to radically altering the fundamentaleconomics of electricity produced from solar energy."  That commitmentseems to have waned.

I would propose that a company based on fabricating low-cost siliconmight have seemed to have value when silicon was expensive. Apparently,the start-up and its investors did not foresee the price of a commoditylike silicon feedstock dropping when production capacity was inevitablyadded.

Pravin Jain is listed as Senergen’s CEO on LinkedIn.  Before Senergen he had founded acommunications company acquired by Enron.

Another founder, oneDr. Sanjai Sinha, was the CTO through January 2009 and was described ashaving experience in technology development for the Siemens Process forUHP polysilicon deposition, PECVD for a-Si films and alloys, and singlecrystalline, polycrystalline and a-Si solar cells, according to BusinessWeek.  Here’s a relevant patent produced by the good doctor. 

Here’s some production equipment designed by Bob Nafzinger forSenergen. 

Expect this type of thing to happen quite frequentlyin the next 24 months as scores of VC-funded solar startups run out ofmoney and investors run out of enthusiasm — the grim flip-side of thesolar investment bubble.



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