November 03, 2008

VentureBeat

CaliSolar raises over $100M for planned "dirty" silicon cell factory

There's a shortage of the pure silicon used to make solar cells, but Sunnyvale, Calif-based CaliSolar doesn't care. There's plenty of the less refined stuff - what's called metallurgical grade silicon - that the company says it can use in its own proprietary cells to generate electricity.Using metallurgical silicon has more than one advantage. Not only will CaliSolar be able to get around the supply bottlenecks that every traditional photovoltaics manufacturer in the world is currently dealing with, but the material itself is much cheaper to buy in bulk, giving the company an edge on cost. It just raised $102 million, split between debt and equity investments, for a new factory, according to peHUB.

There are also separate reports that CaliSolar has effectively tackled the efficiency problem that usually causes other companies to veer away from using low-grade silicon. It recently told Greentech Media that it's 'probably a year ahead' in its research aimed at reaching 15 percent efficiency, which would be competitive with most solar photovoltaics.The company raised $51.9 million in equity and $50 million in convertible debt, which may later change to stock. Hudson Clean Energy Partners led the round, along with the two investors from CaliSolar's first round of $9 million, Advanced Technology Ventures and Globespan Capital Partners.