4 July 2011
SoloPower raises a further $15m in fifth-round funding
According to a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on 27 June, SoloPower of San Jose, CA, USA has raised $15m (of a targeted $43.75m) from Greentech Capital Advisors Securities of New York and Thomas Weisel Partners of San Francisco as part of its fifth round of equity funding. Previously, in March, it had raised $13.5m (out of fifth-round funding then targeted at just $20m) from the same Investors.
SoloPower makes flexible, lightweight copper indium gallium di-selenide (CIGS) thin-film photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules on stainless-steel materials using a proprietary roll-to-roll electro-deposition process. In January, the firm said that it had agreed to construct its first commercial-scale manufacturing plant in Oregon, as the Small Scale Energy Loan Program (SELP) Advisory Committee recommended approval to the Oregon Department of Energy for a $20m loan to the firm. SoloPower has also been awarded a Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) of an estimated $14m from the State of Oregon.
The State funding supplemented $51.575m in fourth-round equity and warrant/option financing raised last December from existing investors Crosslink Capital (of San Francisco), Convexa A/S (of Oslo, Norway) and Hudson Clean Energy Partners LP (of Teaneck, NJ) in order to expand SoloPower’s existing 109,000ft2 small-scale production plant in San Jose and to finance construction of the new plant. Previously, SoloPower (which was founded in 2005) raised $230m in 2008 alone, followed in February 2010 by $44.9m in debt financing via Thomas Weisel Partners.
When completed and at full capacity, the new plant should produce about 400MW of modules annually and provide direct employment to about 500 full-time staff. About 270 construction jobs will be created to build it, and additional jobs are also likely to be generated in the local supply chain.
This February, SoloPower received a conditional commitment from the US Department of Energy (DOE) Loan Programs Office for a $197m loan guarantee to help it secure about 54% of the $364m project cost of constructing its high-volume manufacturing plant in Oregon. SoloPower has until 30 September to finalize the loan guarantee and start construction.
The firm originally planned to site the plant in Wilsonville, OR by retrofitting a former Nike Inc distribution center, around which the Wilsonville City Council in April voted to create a new urban renewal district involving about $11m in cash and tax abatements for SoloPower, supplementing a $10m loan guarantee through a federal Department of Agriculture program (available only in rural areas). However, some of Wilsonville's 19,000 residents launched a petition to put the issue to a municipal ballot, delaying construction and jeopardizing the federal loan guarantee.
In mid-April, SoloPower hence began seeking other locations, leading on 13 May to an agreement to site the plant 20 miles north in North Portland's Rivergate Industrial District, an existing city-designated enterprise zone (partially owned by the Port of Portland) in which SoloPower will be eligible for $15.2m in tax abatements on $271m worth of capital expenditure, plus an extra $5m loan guarantee from the Oregon Department of Energy’s State Energy Loan Program (backed by revenue from Portland city’s on-street parking meters).
SoloPower now aims to begin preparing the new plant starting in July, with production beginning early next year.