Soliant Energy Focuses With $21M

Soliant Energy, maker of rooftop concentrating photovoltaic systems, has raised almost $21 million in new venture capital, including $2.5 million from GE Energy Financial Services, the company announced today at the Solar Power International conference in San Diego. The financing will be used to help the Monrovia, Calif.-based startup get its as yet-unnamed modular solar product to market by the end of 2009.
Founded in 2005 by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists and engineers as Practical Instruments, the company renamed itself Soliant last year. Soliant says its highly efficient solar system, available in beta form in January 2009, will be able to provide building owners higher returns on their investment compared with other solar systems. Soliant scrapped its first rooftop solar concentrating product, the Heliotube, because it’s long-tube concentrator design just didn’t make sense economically, Jay Goldman, VP of Sales, told us on the show floor at Solar Power.

The key to the company’s new product is the system’s triple-junction solar cells, which can get nearly 40 percent efficiency, coupled with Fresnel technology that concentrates the sunlight 500 times. But Soliant has plenty of competition from other startups looking to cash in on concentrated sunlight.
GE Energy Financial Services is becoming a bigger player in the venture funded solar startup world. The investment arm of the technology giant tells us that they have also invested venture capital in an undisclosed thin-film startup company as well. Earlier this year GE Energy Financial Services invested $235 million to acquire 32 percent of Fotowatio, a Spanish solar developer. And just yesterday the GE Energy’s investment arm announced it provided project financing for a SunPower installation at HP’s research and development facility in San Diego.
This round of financing was led by Convexa Capital and return investors included RockPort Capital Partners, Nth Power, Trinity Ventures and Rincon Venture Partners. This brings Soliant’s total funding up to nearly $33 million, including $8 million in Series A raised in 2006 and $4 million from the DOE granted in 2007.
Image courtesy of GE.
Katie Fehrenbacher contributed additional reporting.