1366 Technologies, Yeloha Making Progress in Solar Energy
The past week has been good for Boston-area solar energy startups—and not just because the sun is finally shining in New England.
Silicon wafer manufacturer 1366 Technologies announced it has raised an extra $5 million in an extension of its Series C financing. The extra money brings the amount the Bedford, MA, company raised in the round to $22.5 million and increases the total it has raised to $69.5 million.
Haiyin Capital, a venture capital firm based in China, led the round. The money will be used to support a 250 megawatt full-scale manufacturing facility that 1366 is planning to build in the U.S. The company says the plant will initially produce 60 million silicon wafers a year, which is enough to power more than 30,000 homes in the U.S.
1366 Technologies makes the cells that are the building blocks of photovoltaic solar panels that make up solar power systems. The startup uses multi-crystalline silicon to make the cells, which is one of the common approaches to making cells; other methods include thin-film technology.
What 1366 Technologies says makes it unique is that it uses the “direct wafer” process to create its cells. That involves using molten silicon to produce the wafers, which the company says skips steps and uses less energy than traditional methods while also creating less environmentally harmful slurry and cutting silicon waste in half.
More importantly, 1366 Technologies said its process is cheaper than conventional techniques as it uses only one machine instead of several costly ones. That could be crucial to help the company secure a place in the market as the cost of photovoltaic technology continues to drop—and to reach the company’s goal of making solar energy as cheap as using coal.
The cost factor appears to be a big deal for Haiyin Capital.
“1366’s technology will be uniquely important to the global silicon solar manufacturing chain which continues to seek new methods to strip out costs in the manufacturing process while increasing quality and efficiency,” Haiyin Capital partner Yuquan Wang said.
Yeloha is the other Boston-area startup to make news. The company is trying to create a “solar-sharing network” that will allow people who do not or cannot own solar systems to buy power from people who do—and get a discount on their electric bills. The company just launched its service in Massachusetts, which is its first U.S. territory.
Yeloha is part of Generaytor, a company based in Israel, that just raised a $3.5 million Series A round to roll out the network in the U.S., according to the Wall Street Journal. Carmel Ventures, a VC firm based in Israel, led the round.
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