SolFocus Closes Round C With $30.6M

SolFocushas raised an additional $30.6 million to bring the total amount forthe C round to $77.6 million, the company said Thursday. The companysaid it had closed the first part of the funding in January this year.

The Mountain View, Calif., startup said it would use the money totransition from pilot to commercial production of its concentratingphotovoltaic systems this year.

SolFocus has developed systems with curved glass reflectors andlenses to concentrate the sunlight onto solar cells for electricitygeneration. The triple-junction solar cells are expensive and make useof gallium-arsenide, germanium and other materials in the III-Vsemiconductor group.

Through the use of the concentrator, the semiconductors couldgenerate twice the energy as the conventional crystalline silicon solarcells, the company said.

By using the concentrator, the system would only need a tiny sliverof the expensive solar cells. Critics, however, said the savingsachieved by using smaller solar cells aren’t as attractive now as theyused to be, when silicon – the raw material for crystalline siliconsolar cells – commanded high prices a few years ago. Silicon priceshave fallen quickly over the past year.

SolFocus, founded in 2005, introduced its second systemlast November. The company engineers the optics and buys solar cellsand some other components for assembling each system. The company’svice president of marketing, Nancy Hartsoch, said back then that thenew system could concentrate the sun 500 times.

In Thursday’s announcement, the company said its system now could focus the sunlight 650 times.

The startup has a factory in Mesa, Ariz., for producing 30 megawatts of glass reflectors each year.

SolFocus has inked several agreements to supply the systems toproject developers. In March, it announced a 10-megawatt deal with theSamaras Group in Greece. Another customer is EMPE Solar, which plans tobuild 10 megawatts of projects at different sites in southern Spain.

The company completed a 500-kilowatt project in Spain and a 7.2-kilowatt system for a radio station in San Francisco in 2008. It began generating revenue last year.

Apex Venture Partners led the C round. Return investors include NewEnterprise Associates, NGEN and Yellowstone Ventures. New investorsincluded Demeter Partners and Advanced Equities.



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