OptiSolar Scores $3M for Thin-Film Solar Plant

Update: Check out what we learned about OptiSolar’s funding: they’ve really added a zero to that original amount.

Who says thin-film solar firms have to ditch silicon? OptiSolar, a startup founded in 2005, doesn’t think so, and neither do its investors. The Hayward, Calif.-based company has raised $3 million from Kensington Capital Partners Ltd., which it will put towards building a manufacturing plant at McClellan Business Park, based in McClellan Calif., according to Biz Journal.

OptiSolar’s Canadian subsidiary, OptiSolar Farms Canada, is already developing three large PV farms totaling 90 MW in the province of Ontario. The firm is focusing on Canada because of the Ontario Power Authority’s Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program, which is designed to streamline the permitting process in order to get renewable power online faster. Go Canada!

OptiSolar’s thin-film technology uses amorphous silicon, different from the CIGS technology used by thin-film poster child Nanosolar and Austin thin-film solar firm Heliovolt. But like CIGS, amorphous silicon PV can be produced at scale via low-cost roll-to-roll printing.

While Optisolar’s technology does require crystalline amorphous silicon, which is currently in short supply and thus adds to the cost of the product, the company says their thin-film technology uses 1 percent of the silicon used in crystalline systems. Uni-Solar is another startup pursuing this type of technology using small amounts of silicon. Amorphous silicon, while under development since the 1970s, doesn’t have the efficiency of CIGS technology nor the low cost, so we’re not sure what the long-term viability of this technology is.

While it isn’t clear how much thin-film capacity OptiSolar has already produced, the press releases for their three announced Ontario projects say they will be producing power by 2010. Contracted for nearly 100 MW of thin-film solar power, if OptiSolar delivers, they could become a thin-film leader.

Graphic courtesy of Uni-Solar.