Solexel raises $31 million in D-round financing


While it’s never been easy to bring “next generation” PV technology to market, given the overcapacities and rapid price declines in recent years it’s been more-or-less impossible. That hasn’t stopped a number of startups from trying and Solexel appears to be making progress towards commercializing its thin c-Si cell technology, raising another financing round.

Solexel has announced that earlier this month is closed another equity round of financing, attracting further funding from a group of VCs including Kleiner Perkins, Caufield & Byers, Technology Partners, DAG Ventures, Northgate Capital, GSV Capital Group, Gentry Venture Partners and Jasper Ridge Partners. A new investor in roofing materials manufacturer GAF joined the round. Fellow Californian producer SunPower is also a Solexel investor.

Solexel is attempting to bring to market its thin-c-Si technology. Its process involves a 35-micron-thick c-Si semiconductor layer being deposited in a vacuum chamber, with the resultant p-type cell requiring aluminum back contacting – therefore avoiding the use of silver. The company targets 20% module efficiency at $0.42/W.

“As certified by National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Solexel holds the world?record efficiency for a production?format (156mm x 156mm) thin?crystalline?silicon solar cell,” Solexel wrote in a statement announcing the closing of its latest financing round.

In the statement Solexel indicates that it is moving from R&D to commercial production. It plans to integrate optimizing power electronics into its modules.

Due to the thin nature of the cells, Solexel said that its modules will be lightweight, allowing them to be deployed on residential and commercial rooftops with weight restrictions. Given this and the addition of roofing materials firm GAF to Solexel’s investors, potential BIPV applications for the Solexel technology may also be on the cards.

Despite the difficulties in startups realizing their commercial aspirations in recent times, it looks like the outlook for technology such as Solexel’s is improving. SolarCity’s acquisition of Silevo shows there is an appetitive for new technology and different approaches to cell architecture and a trend towards increased high efficiency monocrystalline production capacity is simultaneously taking shape.