Concentrating Solar Start-Up Semprius Closes On $8.2M

Dow Jones VentureWire

By Yuliya Chernova

Start-up solar company Semprius Inc. closed an $8.2 million round of financing, according to a Securities and Exchange document, as it plans to open a pilot production line for its concentrating solar receivers.

The Durham, N.C.-based company closed the round in January, according to the filing. It was raising the capital throughout 2009, with a $6.5 million close in April. Investors in the April tranche included ARCH Venture Partners, Applied Ventures, Illinois Ventures and Intersouth Partners, In-Q-Tel and Japan-based GVC Investment Fund. It wasn’t clear from the document whether new investors joined the final tranche.

Semprius representatives weren’t available for comment.

In January the company received a $3 million subcontract from the U.S. Department of Energy to commercialize its technology. Semprius is supposed to use the money to develop and demonstrate its technology at a pilot plant. Representatives of the DOE who could speak about the technology weren’t available to comment.

Semprius has a method to print semiconductors on wafers and make solar cells with high concentration. According to a report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the company’s method involves reusing wafers.

The main benefit of concentrated photovoltaics, or CPV, is that they require less semiconducting material. The systems use optics to concentrate sunlight on high-efficiency solar cells.

Semprius uses a microlens and has a method to print thousands of solar cells simultaneously. It can also work with a variety of semiconductors like silicon, amorphous silicon and gallium arsenide, according to its Web site. The company says on its site that it will license the technology for non-solar applications.

According to NREL, the cumulative investment in concentrating photovoltaics globally is “on the order of $1 billion.” But most companies are just now creating prototypes.

“With the overall PV market growing in the gigawatt range, CPV has an opportunity to enter the market with production of tens or hundreds of megawatts per year. This is significant because CPV is unlikely to achieve low costs when manufacturing at less than tens of megawatts per year,” reads an NREL report revised in November 2009.

Several companies opened demonstration plants in 2009, and some set up manufacturing, said the report.