Solar startup Stion raises $25M, but cuts costs, workers

Thin film solar startup Stion has both raised a new round of $25 million in funding, but also laid off some engineers and operations employees. According to a filing Stion has been looking to raise a $55 million round, and has closed on $25 million of that. Funding for solar manufacturing startups is rare in an age when large and small solar makers are going bankrupt due to an oversupply of low cost solar panels.

However, DowJones Venture Wire reports that in conjunction with the funding, Stion let go a “small number of people.” Cost cutting, to survive and scale, in the difficult solar market is an ongoing trend in 2012, no matter how big or small the company is.

Stion, founded in 2006, started commercial shipments of its thin film solar panels earlier this year. Stion spokesperson Frank Yang said in an email that with the $25 million in funding, Stion’s total equity funding is around $240 million.

Stion makes panels that use copper, indium, gallium and selenium (CIGS) instead of conventional silicon to convert sunlight into electricity. Other companies have struggled to scale up the manufacturing of panels that use the same materials to build solar panels, including HelioVolt, Miasole, Solyndra and Nanosolar. Stion has a Mississippi factory, which is supposed to eventually reach 500 MW of production capacity.

A year ago, Stion raised $130 million led by Korean investors —¬†AVACO and Korean private equity funds — and the plan was to build a Korean factory and create a Korean subsidiary. Korean conglomerates seem to have the funds and interest to scale up these CIGS solar companies; Korean company SK Group also pumped $50 million into thin film solar company HelioVolt. Stion’s other investors include Khosla Ventures, Taiwan Semiconductor, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Braemar Energy Ventures, and General Catalyst Partners.

Image courtesy of Stion.