Nanosolar raises $75 million Series C; will build solar cell factory

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June 21, 2006 — Nanosolar Inc., a Palo Alto, Calif., company developing photovoltaic technology using nanoparticle ink and roll-to-roll printing technology, announced Wednesday morning that it has raised a Series C funding round of more than $75 million. The company, a finalist for company of the year in Small Times’ 2005 Best of Small Tech awards, said it will use the financing, as well as $25 million in previously-raised funds, to move into volume production.

The company announced that it has started executing on its plan to build a volume cell production factory with a total annual cell output of 430MW once fully built out, or approximately 200 million cells per year, and an advanced panel assembly factory designed to produce more than one million solar panels per year.

Presently in pilot production in its Palo Alto facility, Nanosolar said it has started ordering volume production equipment for what it said is going to be the world’s largest solar cell manufacturing factory. Solar cells are ordinarily built using wafer production technology. As a result, volume production facilities usually cost significantly more to build.

Its first cell fab will be located in the San Francisco Bay area and its first panel fab — for a broad array of novel product form factors using advanced processes — is expected to be located in Berlin, Germany.

“Thin-film printing overcomes the complexity, high cost, and yield and scalability limitations associated with vacuum-based processes. Nanosolar’s technology enables low-cost, high-yield production previously attainable,” said Chris Eberspacher, Nanosolar’s head of technology, in a prepared statement. “This allows us to produce cells very inexpensively and assemble them into panels that are comparable in efficiency to that of high-volume silicon based PV panels.”

“Given the square meter economics of solar, high-throughput high-yield processes have to be used to succeed in this industry. With Nanosolar’s printing process, the fully-loaded cell cost — including materials, consumables, energy, labor, facility, and capital — is less than the depreciation expense alone that vacuum thin-film companies have to pay for the equipment that produces their cells,” said Werner Dumanski, Nanosolar’s head of manufacturing, in a prepared statement.

The company was originally financed by the founders of Google in 2002. The financing announced Wednesday included participation from existing investors including MDV-Mohr Davidow Ventures, Benchmark Capital, and Onpoint as well Japan’s Mitsui as well as the following new investors:

  • SAC Capital and GLG Partners, two world-class investment funds with substantial PV industry investment experience

  • Swiss Re, the insurance sector leader of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index

  • Grazia Equity, the original backer of Conergy AG, the world’s largest PV system integrator

  • Christian Reitberger, the original backer of Q-Cells, the world’s largest independent silicon cell PV manufacturer

  • Capricorn Management, the investment arm of Jeff Skoll, known for its support of clean energy causes

  • the investment arms of SAP founders Klaus Tschira and Dietmar Hopp, and

  • Beck, a leading PV power plant system integrator.

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