Pole Solar: Petra Solar Goes Big With $40M Funding Round

Update: Petra Solar, which develops pole-mounted solar systems for electric utilities, announced Monday that it has raised $40 million in funding led by Craton Equity Partners and Espírito Santo Ventures with participation from existing investors including OnPoint Technologies, a venture fund for the U.S. Army. 

Petra Solar said it will use the new funding to expand its customer base and hire more staff. The South Plainfield, N.J.-based company also said it plans to expand its product line to address new applications and market segments. We’re still waiting for comment from Petra Solar, but we’re thinking that those new applications and markets might have to do with commercial and residential customers. The company’s website has dedicated sections for commercial and residential products and services.

Update: Petra Solar CEO Shihab Kuran has confirmed for us that the company will use the funding to expand into commercial and residential markets, but always with “utilities in mind as partners,” such as those with initiatives to add PV to their customers’ roofs. Also, the startup will use the funding to expand its applications for utilities, such as around smart grid, mounting systems and grid reliability.

Last year Petra Solar inked a $200 million deal with New Jersey utility PSE&G to build 40 MW of pole-mounted solar capacity, or about 200,000 installations. Petra Solar CEO Shihab Kuran said in a statement released at the time that the contract, its first deal with a utility, was “transformational” for the company. Petra Solar now says it’s shipping its pole-mounted solar systems in volume to PSE&G, and that a growing number of utilities and municipalities are “engaged with the company.”

Petra Solar’s pole-mounted package, called SunWave and including a solar panel (presumably with an embedded micro-inverter since it cranks out AC power) and a communications system, can be directly tied into a utility’s electric grid. The communications piece sends critical operational data, such as energy generation, voltage and temperature, to a utility’s back office where it can be viewed through a Web browser. Communications can also go the other way, from the back office to the pole-mounted systems, for firmware upgrades.

Petra Solar says its SunWave product is price-competitive with conventional roof-mounted PV but can be brought online faster because of the relative ease of mounting the systems to a utility’s existing distribution and streetlight poles. The startup hopes this will be attractive to utilities rushing to meet government rules that mandate the increased use of renewable energy.       

Founded in 2006, Petra Solar previously has received a grant from the Department of Energy worth up to $2.9 million and raised $14 million in venture funding.

Image courtesy of Petra Solar.