February 17, 2010

VentureBeat

Calisolar catches $23.5M following 6N Silicon buy

Calisolar, maker of high-efficiency solar cells made out of cheaper, scrap silicon, has brought in $23.5 million in new equity, according to a regulatory filing with the SEC. The new financing is linked to the company’s recent acquisition of 6N Silicon, one of its primary suppliers — both companies’ investors contributed to the round, Calisolar says.

The new financing, part of what the filing says is a targeted $36 million round, will be used to expand the Sunnyvale, Calif. company’s manufacturing plant, and to improve 6N’s current operations in Ontario, Canada. Calisolar was motivated to acquire the smaller company in order to integrate 6N’s proprietary silicon purification techniques into its own processes.

Calisolar only just began shipping its high-efficiency cells last month. By optimizing manufacturing practices, the company hopes to recycle even more silicon, lowering costs all along its supply and distribution chain. With so many companies, including First Solar and Solyndra, focusing on thin-film solar to reduce the amount of pricey silicon needed, CaliSolar’s emphasis on scrap-silicon use could help other photovoltaic companies do the same and lower their costs without going the thin-film route.

The company has raised $171 million since its inception in 2006. It is backed by Advanced Technology Ventures, Globespan Capital Partners, and Hudson Clean Energy Partners. It also apparently has the support of the government, benefiting from a $51.6 million tax credit via the federal stimulus package. 6N Silicon brings investors Good Energies, Ventures West and Yaletown Ventures to the table.

Other media outlets have conflated the deal between Calisolar and 6N with SunPower’s purchase of European solar plant builder SunRay Renewable Energy, and French nuclear firm Areva’s purchase of solar thermal equipment maker Ausra. But do these three deals, all announced in the last week or so, really mean a wave of consolidation is underway in the solar industry? Or are these deals that have been in the pipeline for a while waiting for the start of the fiscal year? I think we still have to wait and see.