UPDATE: Solar startup Solexant raises $30K, but future unclear

UPDATED: Solexant, a solar thin film startup that once plotted to build its first commercial-scale factory in Oregon, has quietly raised a $30,000 million round.
The new equity round, according to a Securities and Exchange filing from last month, followed the $23.47 million round that the Silicon Valley company raised last summer. Solexant, which set out to make solar cells by depositing cadmium-telluride nanocrystals on rolls of metal foil, hasn’t said much about what it’s been up to since a new CEO, Brad Mattson, took over last year. We briefly caught up with one of Solexant’s board members, Cynthia Ringo, a managing partner at DBL Investors, on Wednesday. Ringo confirmed the new funding and said the company is sorting through options on how to bring its technology to market.
The company was supposed to build its first commercial factory, a 100MW project, in Oregon. The state announced a $25 million loan and $18.75 million in tax credits for the factory, to be located in Gresham, in 2010. But the company missed technical milestones and didn’t take some necessary financial steps to start using the loan, a state official told the Oregonian last July.
Ringo wouldn’t comment on what Solexant plans to do with the new $30,000 million round yet, and said, “It doesn’t behoove us to talk about a lot now because we are not selling in the market right now.” She referred questions to CEO Mattson, and we will update the post if we hear back from Mattson.
Solexant’s technology is based on research from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The company was founded in 2006, when the price of silicon was expensive and investors were pumping lots of money into startups that were investigating alternative and cheaper materials for converting sunlight into electricity. Cadmium-telluride and copper-indium-gallium-selenide (CIGS) became two popular choices.
The success of First Solar has made cadmium-telluride an attractive choice, and many startups have hoped to become an alternative source of supply for cadmium-telluride solar panels. But none has taken off in the market as quickly as anticipated. Abound Solar, after securing a $400 million federal loan last year to add production, announced a suspension of production and layoffs so that it could modify the factory equipment to roll out a new product. Meanwhile, GE has announced a 400MW factory to take on First Solar, and the energy giant’s entry doesn’t bode well for smaller players who don’t have the same financial muscle and production scale.
I caught a presentation by Solexant’s co-founder and previous CEO, Damoder Reddy, at a Dow Jones conference in December 2009. Back then, the company had completed a 2 MW pilot line and raised $22.5 million. It then raised at least a $41.5 million round in 2010.