Solar Inverter Firm Enphase Brings on Kleiner Perkins

The venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers has thrown its greentech weight (and funds) behind Enphase Energy, an early mover in the realm of microinverters for solar panels. Enphase announced today it has closed a $63 million round that included Kleiner Perkins, pushing the 4-year-old company’s total fundraising upwards of $100 million for technology that converts the direct current (DC) flowing out of solar panels into the alternating current (AC) used by the electric grid.

Enphase’s innovation is to do this conversion at the level of an individual solar panel, rather than at a large central conversion device where one failure can take down the whole system, and the weakest panel in a solar array can drag down the efficiency of better-performing panels.

Enphase, based in Petaluma, Calif., plans to use the new funds to speed up its product development and also begin a global expansion effort. The company told us in an interview last June that it wants to embed its microinverters directly into solar modules so that the two are sold bundled to installers. Raghu Belur, co-founder and VP of marketing for the Petaluma, Calif.-based startup, said at the time that within five years, he envisioned Enphase’s microinverters being pre-installed (rather than being mounted to solar panels out in the field), cutting overall system and labor costs.

Enphase’s investors include Third Point Ventures, RockPort Capital Partners, Madrone Capital Partners, PCG Asset Management and Applied Ventures, Bay Partners — and now Kleiner, whose partner Ben Kortlang said in a statement today that Enphase’s system “gives every solar system better performance and reliability, comprehensive intelligence and advanced communications.”

According to Enphase, the system combines microinverter technology, power-line communications and web-based tools for monitoring and analyzing module performance to improve reliability and deliver a 5-25 percent increase in the amount of energy harvested by a given solar array, compared to what’s typical with competing inverter systems. Since launching the business in 2008 (two years after its founding), Enphase says it has sold more than 300,000 microinverters.

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