SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Where is the money going these days in hi-tech?
Not in semiconductors, but rather in the ''cleantech'' sector, especially solar energy. Two solar-cell startups--Infinia and Suniva--have separately obtained $50 million in new venture capital funding.
And this week, Sunovia Energy Technologies Inc. and EPIR Technologies Inc. announced an agreement with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for the development of ultra-lightweight solar cells.
These cells will be used to power spacecraft and, in some cases, for propulsion in all NASA science missions, including the Comet Surface Sample Return (CSSR), Comet Nucleus Sample Return (CNSR), and Mars Sample Return (MASR) missions, according to the companies.
Sunovia and EPIR are developing high-efficiency solar PV technologies and advanced encapsulates based on II-VI materials, which claim to eliminate the need for many of the glass encapsulates that are prevalent in today's market. Sunovia (Sarasota, Fla.) is developing next-generation photovoltaic solar cells and encapsulates for a range of markets.
Others are going the VC route. Infinia Corp. (Kennewick, Wash.) has closed on a $50 million Series B financing round led by GLG Partners with participation from Wexford Capital LLC and prior investors, such as Vulcan Capital, Khosla Ventures, EQUUS Total Return Inc., Idealab and Power Play Energy LLC.
The proceeds from the financing will be used to fund the commercial launch of the Infinia Solar System, a solar power generation product that harvests energy from sunlight to generate clean, emissions-free electricity, according to the company.
The Infinia Solar System couples Infinia's free-piston Stirling engine with a dish-style solar concentrator to produce 3kW of grid-quality AC power.
Meanwhile, Suniva Inc. (Atlanta), a manufacturer of crystalline silicon solar cells, recently announced the completion of its second round of financing for $50 million.
The round was co"led by returning investor, New Enterprise Associates, and Advanced Equities Inc. The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. joined the round via its wholly-owned subsidiary Cogentrix Energy, Inc., a leading independent power producer. HIG Ventures, an existing investor, and Quercus Investments participated as well.
The funds will be used for Suniva's new manufacturing facility near Atlanta. Suniva evolved from the work at the Georgia Institute of Technology's University Center of Excellence in Photovoltaics.